Theses Doctoral

The Invention of Revolutionary Cultural Workers in Wartime China, 1937-1945

Lei, Lei

My dissertation examines how literary and artistic experiments shaped the social relationships and the new culture of wartime China from 1937 to 1945. It investigates this problem by focusing on the making of cultural workers and, in particularly, the creation of cultural institutions that harnessed the creative power of social groups. Narrative experiments and cultural production proliferated in China during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). From the beginning of the war, many writers and artists sought to use cultural production to mobilize the populace in the rural areas of northern China. Engaging with a wide spectrum of individuals and social groups, they experimented with new cultural practices that transformed their own sentiments and actions, thereby inventing themselves as revolutionary cultural workers for the purpose of mobilizing the populace. Their experiments were not only radical attempts at creating the workforce for China’s revolutionary enterprise and should also be understood as part of a worldwide movement of democratic politics. My research shows how innovative narrative experiments intersected with popular spiritual empowerment, cultural transformation, and the revolutionary leadership in modern China. The individual chapters demonstrate how this endeavor entailed cultural-institutional building, including the founding of Lu Xun Academy in Yan’an that recruited artistic and cultural talents to support their war effort. Emerging cultural workers developed new cultural practices in this process and gave life and artistic expression to the revolutionary vision of the populace. Developing new cultural products in this process, they gave narrative life and artistic expression to the revolutionary vision of the mobilizing populace. By the end of the Sino-Japanese War in 1945, a far-reaching Yangge movement, simultaneously modern and traditional, had brought both professional artists as well as the common people to the streets to tell their own stories of the revolution.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Liu, Lydia H.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 5, 2020