Brecht and China: towards an ethical subject
Date of Issue2011
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This dissertation on Brecht and China proceeds from a single idea: it is timely and of great importance to revisit the connection between Brecht and China in the context of twentieth-century intercultural theatre, to reflect upon Brecht’s attitudes to Chinese thought and theatre, and his construction (or imagination) of China, and most importantly, to examine how he works Chinese thought into his inheritance of Western traditions on his reflection upon the issues related to Man. This study views Brecht’s perception and usage of Chinese thought and theatre as continuing the tradition of the penetration of Chinese thought and culture into Western intellectual traditions. Brecht’s example attests to two facts: that the incorporation of Asian thought into Western system of thinking is important to Western intellectual traditions, and, moreover, that “Eastern” and “Western” traditions are, instead of developing in unparalleled courses, more often than not intertwined. Specifically, this study attempts to discover to what degree (and why) Brecht works classical Chinese philosophy (Confucianism and Taoism) and traditional Chinese theatre (his experience of watching Mei Lanfang’s performance) into his effort to explore “a new human type” in theatre—a subject which is as yet little understood. Brecht mediates between Chinese and Western intellectual traditions in the following aspects: his understanding of language and consciousness, his redefinition of the audience/actor relation, his philosophical visions and finally, the notion of subjectivity and ethics evolved in his dramatic works. By contextualizing the discussion on Brecht and China in the history of the absorbance of Chinese thought into the history of Western ideas, this study understands Brecht’s notion of Man as a product of dialogue between the Western and Chinese traditions in the first half of the twentieth-century literary scene.