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Title: Modes of production of working-class literature from Asia
Authors: Lei, Luka Zhang
Keywords: Humanities::Literature
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Lei, L. Z. (2021). Modes of production of working-class literature from Asia. Doctoral thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: In recent years, we are witnessing a growing interest and urgency in the exploration of working-class literature. However, systematical and historical investigations of working-class literature are still rare in Asian countries. This dissertation aims to fill the gap by studying working-class literature from modern Singapore and China. Moreover, by focusing on transnational Asian working-class writers operating under the conditions of rampant capitalism, the thesis goes beyond the national frameworks applied in many if not most literary studies projects. The dissertation presents working-class writers with diverse literary purposes and styles and helps us to recognize that working-class writers and working-class writings are not fixed categories but sites of mediation, negotiation and contestation. Part two moves to working-class literature from contemporary China. Here, too, I discuss different “production modes” of three Chinese working-class writers, namely the Chinese Communist Party-groomed worker writer Hu Wanchun (1929-1998), the neoliberal market-oriented Zhang Lijia (1964-), and a group of rather neglected present-day underground working-class poets and their journal Worker Poetry. I argue that the latter open up a new space for Chinese working-class literature and a possible alternative horizon with an internationalist imagination and a different “mode of production” of working-class literature. Written under different ideologies and published with different motivations, all the texts studied in this dissertation reflect historical transformations in the political struggles of the working-class. examining contemporary Singaporean and Chinese working-class authors in a comparative light, this dissertation presents an “Asia from below”, discussing literary texts produced by socioeconomically and culturally underrepresented working-class writers. The dissertation is split into two parts. Part one takes working-class literature from Singapore as its focus. By analyzing works by Chong Han (1945–), Tan Kok Seng (1939–), and several present-day migrant-worker writers, a basic historical overview of working-class literature in Singapore is presented. In this context, different possibilities and limits under various “production modes” are discussed. In each of the three cases, I reflect on particular historical, sociopolitical, and aesthetic features that make the specific predicaments of working-class writers visible. I also problematize various aspects of the academic discourse on working-class literature at different stages in Singaporean history. My account of the writers in part one is intended as a step toward a more comprehensive and encompassing, and so-far missing, history of working-class writing in Singapore.
DOI: 10.32657/10356/156032
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: embargo_20240331
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
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