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Swallowing an Iron Moon and Eating a Persimmon: Chinese Subaltern Poets in Documentary Films

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Abstract

Since the emergence of Chinese independent films in the late 1980s, documentarians in China have shown great interest in exploring, disclosing, and registering the population at the lowest rung of Chinese society via their cameras. While scholars like Yiman Wang praise documentaries for raising public attention to the Chinese subaltern class' interests, I hold the opposite idea and argue that documentaries and filmmakers generally fail to achieve the goal of "giving a voice to the voiceless." In my thesis, I focus on two Chinese documentary films, Qin Xiaoyu and Wu Feiyue's Iron Moon (2015) and Fan Jian's Still Tomorrow (2016). By looking at visual evidence from close examination of cinematic scenes, focusing on textual evidence provided by the poetry written by the subaltern poets (both inside and outside the films), and analyzing the intentions and the effects of the filmmakers’ arrangements, including the composition, cutting, editing, and costuming, I argue that the migrant worker poets and Yu Xiuhua in the two films are portrayed as weak, manipulated, and stigmatized, and that they become the victims or servants of the camera. Moreover, by discussing different modes of documentary film-making, I show how Qin, Wu, and Fan's involvement in Iron Moon and Still Tomorrow respectively reinforce the subaltern poets' powerlessness.

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54 pages

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Date Issued

2020-12

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Keywords

Chinese documentary films; disability; migrant worker poetry; subaltern literature; subaltern poets; the Chinese subaltern class

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Union Local

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Committee Chair

Admussen, Nick

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Committee Member

Campana, Andrew

Degree Discipline

Asian Studies

Degree Name

M.A., Asian Studies

Degree Level

Master of Arts

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Government Document

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Attribution 4.0 International

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dissertation or thesis

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