The Post Cultural Revolution Moment in Chinese Cinema and the Historical Dialectics of Realism

Jason McGrath, Associate Professor at the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures,University of Minnesota

Co-Sponsored by The Roundtable Series of the Art and Art History Department and the EAS Workshop (Light refreshments will be served)

The standard macro narrative of Chinese film history holds that the so-called Fifth Generation enacted a radical rupture in the mid 1980s, while the Sixth Generation also represented a major break—including from the Fifth Generation—in the 1990s. This paper instead seeks to locate the origins of both in the immediate post-Mao moment, particularly 1979 to 1983, arguing for the existence of a trans-generational post-socialist realism that can only be understood in the context of Mao-era socialist realism. Following the abstract model of a historical dialectics of realism suggested by Roman Jakobson, we find the origins of post-socialist realism in a reaction against revolutionary conventions and an embrace of Bazinian aesthetics, first in theory and then increasingly in practice. At the same time, the techniques employed to break through previous conventionality eventually themselves became formulaic, as has become increasingly apparent in Chinese cinema. As the cycle of post-socialist realism comes to a close, it is worth returning to its origins to examine the motivations and rhetoric of its emergence and the way those played out in its practice across generations.

Speaker bio : Jason McGrath is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, where he also serves on the graduate faculty of Moving Image Studies. He is currently serving as Visiting Associate Professor in East Asian Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley. He is the author of Postsocialist Modernity: Chinese Cinema, Literature, and Criticism in the Market Age (Stanford UP, 2008), and his essays on Chinese film have appeared in several journals and anthologies. His current projects include an anthology of Chinese writings on film and a book manuscript entitled “Inscribing the Real: Realism and Convention in Chinese Fiction Film from the Silent Era to the Digital Age.”

Friday, October 14, 2011 | 12:00 pm — 1:30 pm
Cummings Art Building, Room 103

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Department of Art and Art History