Theses Doctoral

Intersecting Nations, Diverging Discourses: The Fraught Encounter of Chinese and Tibetan Literatures in the Modern Era

Peacock, Christopher

This is a two-pronged study of how the Chinese and Tibetan literary traditions have become intertwined in the modern era. Setting out from the contention that the study of minority literatures in China must be fundamentally multilingual in its approach, this dissertation investigates how Tibetans were written into Chinese literature, and how Tibetans themselves adopted and adapted Chinese literary discourses to their own ends. It begins with Lu Xun and the formative literary conceptions of nation in the late Qing and Republican periods – a time when the Tibetan subject was fundamentally absent from modern Chinese literature – and then moves to the 1980s, when Tibet and Tibetans belatedly, and contentiously, became valid subject matter for Han Chinese writers. The second aspect of the project situates modern Tibetan-language literature, which arose from the 1980s onwards, within the literary and intellectual context of modern China. I read Döndrup Gyel, modern Tibetan literature’s “father figure,” as working within unmistakably Lu Xun-ian paradigms, I consider the contradictions that arose when Tsering Döndrup’s short story “Ralo” was interpreted as a Tibetan equivalent of “The True Story of Ah Q,” and I analyze the rise of a “Tibetan May Fourth Movement” in the 2000s, which I argue presented a selective reading of modern China’s intellectual history. Throughout, I focus on the intersections and divergences at play and examine the ways in which these texts navigate complex and conflicting discourses of nationalism, statism, and colonialism. The conclusions of this research point us toward significant theoretical reconceptualizations of literary practices in the People’s Republic of China, which now include not only a vast body of Chinese-language writing on minority peoples, but also numerous minority-language literatures and distinct “national” literary traditions.


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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
July 23, 2020