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The emergence of the modern Chinese realistic novel coincided with the dawn of the Literary Revolution of 1917. Many writers of
the time, the "Art for Life" School in particular, advocated realism as the basic creed of literary creation. That realism was a powerful influence on modern Chinese novelists can be seen from the vast
output of realistic novels during the twenties and thirties. This thesis is an investigation of the reasons for the rise and development of this realistic trend, and the nature of realism as was understood by Chinese critics and novelists.
The positivistic conception of life of the many Chinese writers of the time is the most important factor in the gradual changes of these novels. In the concrete, their approach to art was utilitarian. Art should promote the welfare of human beings, but it should also reflect society as it is. A detailed study (Chapters One and Two) shows how this positivistic outlook grew from the origins of the late chling, and how closely it is related to the evolution of the modern novel. The influence of western literary theories and realistic novels is noticed, as is the change from a semi-mythological to a rationalist conception of
the Chinese novel. All these were important elements in the deVelopment of the modern novel.
The concept of realism in the Chinese context is subjected to a detailed study in Chapter Three, and it is sU9<]ested that the lack of a pessimistic determinism in the nove~s distin<]uish Chinese realism from its classical European coun~erpart in the 19th Century.
It is in this light that the realistic novels are examined in Chapter Four. Attention is focussed on the works of four important "realists": Mao Tun, Yeh Shao-chtln, Wang Lu-yen and
Wu Tsu-hsiang; stress is placed not so much on their artistic achievements as on their general characteristics as realistic writers.
With the new awareness of socialism in China in the early thirties, the influence of utilitarian humanism weakens and
the new novels begin to reflect the ideology of socialist realism.
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School:The University of Hong Kong
School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:chinese fiction 20th century history and criticism realism in literature
Date of Publication:01/01/1976