Jian Xu
Department of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature
End-of-Year Fellowship Report for 2004-05

A Center fellow during 2004-2005, I worked on the theme of exile and migration in contemporary Chinese literature and film and completed two articles devoted to the study of Wang Xiaoshuai’s films So Close to Paradise (1995) and Beijing Bicycle (2001) and Zhang Wei’s novel A September Fable (1992). My work on Wang’s films examines how they represent the condition of the rural-to-urban migrants in the Chinese cities, their social marginality and their subjectification by the ideology of “socialism with a market economy.” It analyzes the films’ subtle experimentalism concealed by a referential realism and how this experimentalism opens up the conventional film codes to the singularity of the migrants’ lived experience. My writing benefited from the Center Fellows’ Seminar, which among other things deepened my understanding about the language of film noir. My work on Zhang Wei’s September Fable focuses on why and how, in a time of national economic expansion, the novel poeticize the poverty and suffering of a village of migrating peasants and treats the hardships of an uprooted, hand-to-mouth existence as an inevitable experience of peasant life. It studies the novel in the sociocultural context of global modernity and proposes to see the novel’s naturalization of suffering in light of the cultural need of China’s postsocialist literature to invent an “ideologeme” to combat the universalistic discourse of modernity propagated now by a “neoliberal” order. Both articles have now been accepted for publication (by Screen and Modern Language Quarterly) and I am beginning to work on a third article. I would not have accomplished as much if I had not had the course release from the Center fellowship and the series of stimulating seminars and conferences directed by Daniel Sherman. 

list of works accepted
“Representing Rural Migrants in the City: Experimentalism in Wang Xiaoshuai's ‘So Close to Paradise’ and ‘Beijing Bicycle’” Screen vol. 46, no. 4 (winter 2005) forthcoming.

“Body, Earth, and Migration: the Poetics of Suffering in Zhang Wei’s ‘A September Fable’”  Modern Language Quarterly  Vol. , no. 2 (summer 2006) forthcoming.

Current department website




Center for 21st Century Studies

Merry Wiesner-Hanks

Center for 21st Century Studies
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
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  Last updated 9/2/08 by RVD