China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The female body has long been symbolized and deployed as a site of production for promoting patriotism in modern Chinese literature and culture. The bodies of revolutionary women have usually been presented in a highly disciplined and asexual manner so as to embody the purity of the nation. However, many contemporary adaptations of the red classics incorporate explicitly sexual representations of revolutionary female bodies.
My paper will explore whether this trend works against state sponsored patriotism or reconfirms the state ideology by strategically incorporating consumer culture. It will examine the constant revisions and adaptations of the red classic novel Red Crag (1961), which have been driven by both the promotion of patriotism and consumerism throughout different time periods. It focuses on the narratives and the making of a female revolutionary martyr, Jiang Xueqin (Sister Jiang), to explore how representations serve as a strategy to either justify or question the normalization of the the horrors of untimely death, and how the advocacy of female martyrdom shapes and problematizes state sponsored patriotism. From close readings of the novel Red Crag and its film adaptation Eternity in Flames (1965), as well as the TV adaptation Red Crag in Flames (2010), I argue that ostensibly the disciplined female revolutionary’s body instantiates state sponsored patriotism, and that conversely the sensuous and grotesque body works against the social and patriarchal order. At the same time, the female revolutionary’s undisciplined body nonetheless reconfirms the fact that women’s bodies are frequently used to receive and produce political messages.