Christopher Rea

Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Boys' Love (Danmei) fiction on the Chinese internet : Wasabi Kun, the BL forum Young Nobleman Changpei, and the development of an online literary phenomenon (2017)

This study is a brief history of the development of danmei 耽美, or Boys’ Love (BL) fiction on mainland Chinese websites. Focusing on Gongzi Changpei 公子长佩 (Young Nobleman Changpei) – a danmei forum –and writings by the danmei author Wasabi Kun 芥末君, it conducts a case study of danmei as a literary phenomenon, encompassing factors such as industry, aesthetics, and community, including reader response. In sketching the ecology of one type of online literature, this study draws on primary literary texts, online reader responses by so-called fu nü 腐女 (“rotten girls”), industry data, and previous scholarly studies. Appendices include a glossary of terms and two non-exhaustive tables: one details the main websites/forums where the writing, reading, discussion, and circulation of danmei fiction takes place; the other lists representative novels from 2001 to 2015. Chapter 2 offers an introduction to the Chinese BL forum Gongzi Changpei (Young Nobleman Changpei), detailing the subgenres on offer, analyzing a selection of popular novels, and describing the forums’ operations. Chapter 3 offers a detailed analysis of the career and reception of author Wasabi Kun 芥末君, as well as of Kun’s serialized novel If You Have Been Through Winter 如你走过冬天 (2015-2016). Through analyzing Kun’s work, I show a line of development in the genre. I argue that Kun tries to avoid creating simply a hybrid combination of various genre elements or a series of utopian but improbable cute stories. Instead, Kun’s novel emphasizes romance and individual growth, refined language and emotional realism. In tracing a broader history of the genre, I argue that danmei fiction is being influenced by Japanese and Western models at a time when Chinese women are pursuing non-traditional gender roles and becoming comfortable discussing and reading about sex. Yet after a dozen years of development, the mainstream of online writing shows that even as the novels become more entertaining, fewer focus solely on homosexual relationships. More authors are writing novels with hybrid genre elements, in which the familiar Boys’ Love tropes of sex and pleasure are becoming more or less sidelined.

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Cosmopolitanism at war : a study of Xu Xu's drama scripts, 1939-1944 (2017)

Circumstances in China during WWII were changing constantly in areas controlled by different political powers. People traveling between the Japanese-occupied area and the Greater Rear Area controlled by the Nationalists encountered different political and cultural climates, each with both limitations and opportunities for the circulation of knowledge, information, and literature. This thesis examines how one playwright with cosmopolitan sensibilities responded to these different conditions. Specifically, I analyze the multi-act plays that Xu Xu wrote between 1938 to 1944 in two locales: Japanese-occupied Shanghai and the Nationalists’ wartime headquarters of Chongqing. I examine how war affected Xu Xu’s drama aesethics, focusing in particular on how he rewrote several of his Shanghai plays after he moved to Chongqing. I argue that Xu Xu’s multi-act plays, with their mixture of melodrama and innovation, reveal challenges with maintaining a cosmopolitan self-identity during wartime. Xu Xu, I argue, did not find a satisfactory space to write freely. In his wartime plays he propagandized for his own cosmopolitan vision, trying to thread together obligatory patriotism and aesthetic self-fullfillment. In his experience we see a Chinese intellectual self-adjusting his literary aesthetics when entering a new geo-political space, while insisting on the primacy of individual moral vision.

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Three faces of a space : the Shanghai pavilion room (tingzijian) in literature, 1920-1940 (2017)

From the 1920s to the 1940s, the pavilion room, or Tingzijian—the small room above the kitchen in an alleyway house—accommodated many Shanghai sojourners. Tingzijian functioned as lodging and as a social space for young writers and artists. For many lodger-writers, the Tingzijian was a temporary residence before they left around 1941. In the interim, Tingzijian life became a burgeoning literary subject, even a recognized literary category.This study explores what meanings people ascribed to Tingzijian, and the historical and the artistic function of the space in Chinese literature of the 1920s and 1930s. Scholars have traditionally viewed “Tingzijian literature” as the province of leftist “Tingzijian literati” (wenren) who later transformed into revolutionaries; this study reveals the involvement a much greater variety of writers. We find a cross section of the literary field, from famous writers like Ba Jin 巴金 and Ding Ling丁玲, for whom living in a Tingzijian was an important stage in their transition from the margins to the center of the literary field, to a constellation of obscure tabloid writers concerned less with revolution than with common urbanites’ daily lives. This study illustrates the heterogeneity of “Tingzijian literature” by identifying three trends in use of Tingzijian as a trope: 1) Shelter: exhibiting quotidian life in Tingzijian, thereby generating an iconic imaginary of “petty urbanites” 小市民 as a distinct socio-economic class; 2) Tomb: narrating the sense of confinement engendered by these cramped spaces, and connecting such physical, mental, and emotional entrapment to intellectuals’ social and psychological oppression; 3) Stage: mocking the “Tingzijian literati” via diagnoses of their pathological shortcomings, especially bogus expressions of revolutionary ardor or patriotic commitment—a backlash against the Tingzijian writer, who had become a recognizable, if contested, cultural figure.I base my conclusions on close textual and contextual readings of primary materials, including periodicals such as Shen Bao 申报, Modern Times 现世报, and Shanghai Guide 上海生活, diaries, memoirs, literary works, movies, and stage plays. Secondary sources include studies of Shanghai culture, architectural history and Chinese literary history.

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The Shanghai Manhua Society : a history of early Chinese cartoonists, 1918-1938 (2016)

Towards the end of the 19th century, the first illustrated pictorials began to appear in China. Satirical cartoons found their way into Chinese newspapers and magazines over the following decades, as print technology gradually improved. By the 1910s illustrated pictorials began to proliferate, along with the first examples of humor magazines, a trend which would continue through the 1920s. By the early 1930s, China had over two dozen magazines dedicated to satirical comics, or manhua, as they came to be known. This study looks at the Manhua Society, a group of semi-professional cartoonists whose members were active in Shanghai from roughly 1918 to 1938. By pooling their resources and working under a common banner, the Manhua Society members were not only able to find employment, but also to step into the role of publishers themselves, financed by day jobs in advertising and education. This study reconstructs the history of the society using oral histories, academic studies, and primary source materials (translating many previously unavailable in English). It focuses on eight key members of the Manhua Society: Ye Qianyu, Ji Xiaobo, Ding Song, Zhang Guangyu, Lu Shaofei, Wang Dunqing, Huang Wennong, and Hu Xuguang. These men saw their careers transformed by a series of escalating military conflicts: the May 4 Movement of 1919, the Zhili-Anhui War of 1920, the first Zhili-Fengtian War of 1922, the Jiangsu-Zhejiang War and second Zhili-Fengtian War of 1924, the May 30 Movement of 1925, the Northern Expedition of 1926-1928, including the Shanghai Massacre of 1927, and the first Japanese invasions of Shanghai in 1932 and 1937. Their stories show how the history of Chinese comics was shaped by individuals, as well as organizations. Although this industry was crippled by the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1937, the same cartoonists would go on to work in the propaganda offices of World War II, the Chinese Civil War, and the Cold War. In tracing the origins of the Manhua Society, therefore, I argue that it influenced not only the development of cartooning and comics in the Republican era, but also the visual culture of the PRC.

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From Lu Xun’s “save the children” to Mao’s “the world is yours” : children's literature in China, 1920s-1960s. (2014)

In 1929 the leading Chinese intellectual Hu Shi said: “To understand the degree to which a particular culture is civilized, we must appraise … how it handles its children.” In 1957, Chairman Mao told Chinese youth that “both the world and China’s future belonged to them.” In both eras, cultural leaders placed children and youth in the centre of cultural and political discourse associating them with the nation’s future. This thesis compares Chinese children’s literature during the Republican period (1912-1949) and the early People’s Republic of 1949-1966, until the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and argues that children’s writers who worked in both new Chinas treated youth and children as key agents in building a nation-state. In this thesis, I focus on the works of three prominent writers, Ye Shengtao (1894-1988), Bing Xin (1900-1999) and Zhang Tianyi (1906-1985) who wrote children’s literature and were prominent cultural figures in both eras. Their writing careers make for excellent case studies in how children’s literature changed from one political era to another. I conduct thematic and stylistic textual analysis of their works and read them against their historical and cultural backgrounds to determine how children’s writings changed and why.As anticipated, I showed that during both eras, children’s literature and politics were closely related. Another expected finding is that the manner of writing for children changed significantly as children from victims turned into active agents of the nation’s future. Challenging the view that children’s writers of the early People’s Republic merely followed the Party line, I argue that Ye, Bing, and Zhang remained loyal to the task of “saving children.” Another unexpected finding is that the Chinese Communist Party did not invent new cultural policies toward children from scratch, but employed numerous policies and ideas, including literary ideas, of the Nationalist regime that also inherited much from the late Qing.

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