Between Home and Homeland: Exile in Contemporary Chinese Literature

By: Catherine White '14

Advising Faculty: Yibing Huang


Exile is an individual’s separation either internally or externally from their homeland and appears universally as a theme in literature. However, this theme has become an important cultural aspect of contemporary Chinese literature as a result of the societal upheavals in China during the 20th century that caused generations of Chinese citizens to struggle to adapt to constantly shifting national and cultural identities. The contemporary Chinese writers Bei Dao, Duo Duo, and Ha Jin explore what happens after exile, the definition of home, if an exile can create a new home after leaving their homeland, and how transnationalism has affected the Chinese exile in their literature. The poetry of Bei Dao and Duo Duo portray exile as a permanent identity while Ha Jin, in his novel, offers the viewpoint that the confusion and loneliness that come from being an exile are a part of the process of becoming an immigrant and of creating a new homeland. Through the works of these three authors it is clear that exile is a theme because in its most basic form exile is an individual disconnection from the majority norm, an experience that transcends language, cultural, and national borders.

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Related Fields: East Asian Studies