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postgraduate thesis: Fiction and human rights discourse in China : 1897-1927

TitleFiction and human rights discourse in China : 1897-1927
Authors
Issue Date2016
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Li, S. [李莎]. (2016). Fiction and human rights discourse in China : 1897-1927. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.
AbstractLate Qing (清) was a time of profound transformation in China. From 1897, political, economic and cultural changes began to intensify, and a human rights discourse gradually made its appearance. Literature profoundly changed as well. Fiction, which had been largely excluded from orthodox literature, started to acquire a prominent status. This thesis investigates the engagement of modern Chinese fiction with the human rights discourse from 1897 to 1927. It argues that modern Chinese fiction added momentum to the human rights discourse by presenting an individual-based perception of life and by disseminating human rights concepts. Fiction also provided an important critique of the human rights discourse by exposing the problems, limitations and dilemmas of human rights in the Chinese society. In the introduction, I provide a historical overview of the human rights discourse and the rise of modern fiction. Each chapter then focuses on one literary text and one specific right, and establishes a dialogue between them. In Chapter 1, I discuss the reception of the French novel The Lady of the Camellias in relation to the right to freedom of marriage. This novel depicts the destruction of love due to the interference of family authority. I discuss how its techniques of first-person narration, psychological depictions and epistolarity reinforced the novel’s effect in evoking readers’ empathy and sympathy towards people who lacked the freedom to marry, and therefore contributed to the social recognition of freedom of marriage. Chapter 2 examines Lu Xun’s story Regret for the Past in relation to the women’s rights discourse. The story is written as a man’s confession about his responsibility for the destruction of his woman after their pursuit of freedom of marriage. I show that through the unreliable narrator, the use of silence and the realist depictions of social environment, the narrative questions the social discourse of women’s rights by revealing the underlying patriarchal consciousness and demonstrating its destructive effects. In Chapter 3, I discuss Lu Xun’s novella, The True Story of Ah Q, which tells the story of the life, the unjust trial and the execution of a peasant named Ah Q, in relation to the consciousness of the right to life. I argue that through the techniques of irony, realism, symbolic realism and the shift in narrative perspective, this story reflects the neglect of the value of life in the Chinese society and raises the readers’ awareness of these facts which would lead to self-introspection and the quest for change. Overall, with the use of vernacular language, the thematic engagement with human rights issues, and the deployment of techniques like realism and first-person narration, modern Chinese fiction disseminated ideas about human rights to a wider audience and provoked readers to think beyond the prevailing normative framework to imagine an order more compatible with the rising individuality. Fiction’s focus on the conditions of everyday human existence also brought about a higher awareness of the inner contradictions within the human rights discourse itself.
DegreeDoctor of Legal Studies
SubjectHuman rights - China - History - 20th century
Human rights in literature
Human rights - China - History - 19th century
Dept/ProgramLaw
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/235885
HKU Library Item IDb5801622

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorLi, Sha-
dc.contributor.author李莎-
dc.date.accessioned2016-11-09T23:26:56Z-
dc.date.available2016-11-09T23:26:56Z-
dc.date.issued2016-
dc.identifier.citationLi, S. [李莎]. (2016). Fiction and human rights discourse in China : 1897-1927. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/235885-
dc.description.abstractLate Qing (清) was a time of profound transformation in China. From 1897, political, economic and cultural changes began to intensify, and a human rights discourse gradually made its appearance. Literature profoundly changed as well. Fiction, which had been largely excluded from orthodox literature, started to acquire a prominent status. This thesis investigates the engagement of modern Chinese fiction with the human rights discourse from 1897 to 1927. It argues that modern Chinese fiction added momentum to the human rights discourse by presenting an individual-based perception of life and by disseminating human rights concepts. Fiction also provided an important critique of the human rights discourse by exposing the problems, limitations and dilemmas of human rights in the Chinese society. In the introduction, I provide a historical overview of the human rights discourse and the rise of modern fiction. Each chapter then focuses on one literary text and one specific right, and establishes a dialogue between them. In Chapter 1, I discuss the reception of the French novel The Lady of the Camellias in relation to the right to freedom of marriage. This novel depicts the destruction of love due to the interference of family authority. I discuss how its techniques of first-person narration, psychological depictions and epistolarity reinforced the novel’s effect in evoking readers’ empathy and sympathy towards people who lacked the freedom to marry, and therefore contributed to the social recognition of freedom of marriage. Chapter 2 examines Lu Xun’s story Regret for the Past in relation to the women’s rights discourse. The story is written as a man’s confession about his responsibility for the destruction of his woman after their pursuit of freedom of marriage. I show that through the unreliable narrator, the use of silence and the realist depictions of social environment, the narrative questions the social discourse of women’s rights by revealing the underlying patriarchal consciousness and demonstrating its destructive effects. In Chapter 3, I discuss Lu Xun’s novella, The True Story of Ah Q, which tells the story of the life, the unjust trial and the execution of a peasant named Ah Q, in relation to the consciousness of the right to life. I argue that through the techniques of irony, realism, symbolic realism and the shift in narrative perspective, this story reflects the neglect of the value of life in the Chinese society and raises the readers’ awareness of these facts which would lead to self-introspection and the quest for change. Overall, with the use of vernacular language, the thematic engagement with human rights issues, and the deployment of techniques like realism and first-person narration, modern Chinese fiction disseminated ideas about human rights to a wider audience and provoked readers to think beyond the prevailing normative framework to imagine an order more compatible with the rising individuality. Fiction’s focus on the conditions of everyday human existence also brought about a higher awareness of the inner contradictions within the human rights discourse itself.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.subject.lcshHuman rights - China - History - 20th century-
dc.subject.lcshHuman rights in literature-
dc.subject.lcshHuman rights - China - History - 19th century-
dc.titleFiction and human rights discourse in China : 1897-1927-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5801622-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Legal Studies-
dc.description.thesislevelMaster-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineLaw-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-

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