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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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The Revolutionary Metapragmatics of Laughter in Zhao Shuli’s Fiction

The Revolutionary Metapragmatics of Laughter in Zhao Shuli’s Fiction

(p.147) 8 The Revolutionary Metapragmatics of Laughter in Zhao Shuli’s Fiction
Maoist Laughter

Roy Chan

Hong Kong University Press

Characters’ use of humor in Zhao Shuli’s Yan’an period fiction demonstrates an ironic metapragmatic awareness of language use; in turn, such humor critiques how ingrained speech conventions uphold social hierarchy. Laughter indexes the collapse of these conventions and stages the possibility of recalibrating not only language use, but social relations as well, toward a more egalitarian ideal. Zhao Shuli’s fictional humor is thus closely tied with revolutionary social transformation. This chapter uses a sociolinguistic approach to examine how Zhao Shuli’s fiction displays critical awareness of the pragmatic effects of language use through the use of humor, and how humor can unravel forms of social power embedded in speech conventions. It analyzes two stories: “The Rhymes of Li Youcai” and “The Marriage of Little Erhei.”

Keywords:   Zhao Shuli, socialist realism, sociolinguistics, metapragmatics, humor, Yan’an

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