Laughter and the Cosmopolitan Aesthetic in Lao She's 二马 (Mr. Ma and Son)

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Journal / PublicationCLCWeb - Comparative Literature and Culture
Issue number1
Online publishedMar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014



In his article "Laughter and the Cosmopolitan Aesthetic in Lao She's 二马 (Mr. Ma and Son)" Jeffrey Mather discusses Lao She's (pseudonym for Qingchun Shu 1899-1966) texts and their naturalist portrayals of social life in China during a tumultuous period. Lao She's most celebrated works include the 1937 novel 骆驼祥子 (Rickshaw Boy) and the 1958 play 茶馆 (Teahouse), both of which were made into films in China. Rickshaw Boy was translated into English in 1945 and became an international bestseller, making Lao She one of the first modern Chinese writers known in the West. Lao She wrote Mr. Ma and Son in London during the 1920s: the novel was first published in installments in 1929 in the prominent modernist literary magazine 小说月报 (Fiction Monthly). Set in London and drawing from a range of literary and popular sources, Lao She's novel engages with humor as a way to challenge distinctions between East and West and to present readers with the possibilities of a cosmopolitan literary aesthetic. While the novel points an accusatory finger through its satirical aims and along the way empowers a nationalist sense of self-defense seemingly, there is at the same time an ironic laughter that disrupts the rational integrity of the text, one that is spontaneous and slippery in its ambivalence.

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