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Cheuk, Michael Ka-­chi (2018) Escape from Censorship : The Aesthetics of Reflexivity in Gao Xingjian’s Pre-­Nobel Plays. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Censorship and freedom of expression are matters of universal concern. The case of Nobel Laureate and bilingual writer Gao Xingjian, who started his career in China before relocating to France in the late 1980s, offers a most suitable case study for a comparative examination of global regimes of censorship. This project uses an inclusive definition of censorship that considers not only public and institutional censorship, but also structural and internal censorship. While Gao appears to be conditioned by both Chinese realism and Euro- American Orientalism, his plays constitute a productive site of intercultural contact. Drawing on European theatrical modernism and the conventions of Chinese indigenous theatre (xiqu), Gao has developed on the idea of theatrical suppositionality (jiadingxing) and a performance theory that he describes as “tripartite acting” (biaoyan de sanchongxing). This thesis defines suppositionality and tripartite acting as Gao’s “aesthetics of reflexivity,” namely, techniques that Gao deploys to induce reflexivity and self-awareness towards one’s limitations – of actors, audiences, and Gao himself. For Gao, the artist’s ego is always blinded by narcissism and requires not one, but two levels of reflexive observation – “an observation of an observation.” Through close-readings of selected plays by Gao from the pre-Nobel (i.e., pre- 2000) period, this study examines how Chinese realism and Euro-American Orientalism are theatrically and reflexively represented. Overall, this project argues that the foundation of Gao’s “escape from censorship” is not fleeing from external (ie, institutional) censorship, but his capacity of redefining self-censorship into a reflexive expression.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Rossella Ferrari
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2020 08:54

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