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The Chinese ideogram Chi is far richer in connotation than the equivalent English verb "to eat." Chi can also be read as "the mouth that begs for food and words." In China such fundamental acts as eating or refusing to eat can carry enormous symbolic weight. This book examines the twentieth-century Chinese political experience as it is represented literature through hunger, cooking, eating, and cannibalising. At the core of Gang Yue's argument lies the premise that the discourse surrounding the most universal of basic human acts-eating - is a culturally specific one. The broad historical scope of this volume illustrates how widely applicable eating-related metaphors can be. For instance, Yue shows how cannibalism symbolises old China under European colonisation in the writing of Lu Xun. In Mo Yan's 1992 novel Liquorland, however, cannibalism becomes the symbol of overindulgent consumerism. Yue considers other writers as well, such as Shen Congwen, Wang Ruowang, Lu Wenfu, Zhang Zianliang, Ah Cheng, Zheng Yi, and Liu Zhenyun. A special section devoted to women writers includes a chapter on Xiao Hong, Wang Anyi, and Li Ang, and another on the Chinese-American women writers Jade Snow Wong, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Amy Tan. The Mouth That Begs will interest sinologists, literary critics, anthropologists, cultural studies scholars, and all others curious about the semiotics of food.
Duke University Press
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