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“Problem Stories” as Part of the “National Form”: Rural Society in Transition and Zhao Shuli’s Peasant Stories

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This paper offers a new interpretation of Zhao Shuli’s (1906–70) stories by examining how his efforts were coinciding, or sometimes perhaps in conflict, with the Communist Party of China’s mandate of creating a “new direction” for society. The discussions of his stories reveal the general historical experience of a rural society in transition in the “liberated area.” There are two major themes: social improvement under the intervention of the new government, and the “standing up” of the subaltern peasant class. These motifs often overlap to various degrees, and sometimes there is a hybrid narrative which combines the two. The last section of this paper briefly explores the supposed paradox of Zhao Shuli’s “direction,” its contributions to representing and educating the masses, and its limitations in fulfilling the party’s long-term ideological goal of reforming the peasants’ ethical-moral world.


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