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Maoist Laughter$
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Ping Zhu, Zhuoyi Wang, and Jason McGrath

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528011

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528011.001.0001

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Fantastic Laughter in a Socialist-Realist Tradition?

Fantastic Laughter in a Socialist-Realist Tradition?

The Nuances of “Satire” and “Extolment” in The Secret of the Magic Gourd and Its 1963 Film Adaptation

(p.89) 5 Fantastic Laughter in a Socialist-Realist Tradition?
Maoist Laughter

Yun Zhu

Hong Kong University Press

With an aim to shed some light on the regulated yet not necessarily homogenized laughter of the pre-Cultural Revolution Maoist years, this chapter examines the nuanced deployment of laughter in the popular children’s novella The Magic Gourd (Bao hulu de mimi) by the literary humorist Zhang Tianyi (1906–1985) and its eponymous film adaptation by Yang Xiaozhong (1899–1969). Contextualizing these texts both in the larger tradition of modern Chinese literature and culture and in the specific socio-cultural milieu of the late 1950s and the early 1960s, I look into how, without apparently challenging the dominant socialist-realist model, they tactfully relieve the stress between the politically repudiated comic mode of “satire” (fengci) and the purposefully promoted mode of “extolment” (gesong). Whether intended or not, the keen relevance the texts bear to the political and economic hyperboles of the Maoist era adds further ambiguities and ironies to the already layered laughter.

Keywords:   satire, extolment, socialist realism, The Secret of the Magic Gourd

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