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Conflicting masculinities in Ha Jin’s Waiting: Talented scholars and ruthless men of action in China’s Mao and post-Mao eras

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Forthcoming
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>25/03/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Nan Nü: Men, Women and Gender in China
Publication StatusAccepted/In press
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

As a highly acclaimed novel for which Ha Jin won the U.S. National Book Award in 1999, Waiting covers the period from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, encompassing the Cultural Revolution. Its oft-noted central concern is the suppression of emotional life, and by extension humanity, in the totalitarian climate of Mao's regime. This article offers a new reading, which foregrounds the novel’s use of masculinities as a central theme and driver of the plot. Through the prism of Kam Louie’s wen-wu (literary accomplishment – military prowess) dyad, the article focuses on Ha Jin’s critique of the socialist-era trajectories of two historically prominent Chinese male character types: the intellectually oriented man of book learning and the physically oriented man of action. It shows how Waiting illuminates the conditions underlying a pervasive social and psychological paralysis of male intellectuals and the contrasting empowerment of a predatory class of nouveau riche entrepreneurs.