Readership, modernity and literary historiography : the prose essay and the modern educational system in Taiwan

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Date

2012-05

Authors

Wang, Ming-Huei

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Abstract

The prose essay, a once dominant genre in pre-modern Chinese literature, is now a marginalized category as compared with fiction in modern Taiwanese literature. This speculation, however, does not apply to the reversed status of these two genres in the middle school literature education. The prose writing, especially the artistic essay, still occupies the largest portion of modern literature education. While universities are commonly seen as a site where literary canons are produced, revised and distributed, and where literary history is debated and constructed, these canons and literary history may be not as influential as one might think. Concurrently, a very different curriculum–which also means a different way of assessing value–is being taught in secondary schools, a place where social relations and structures are reproduced. This thesis aims to study this disjunction between the literature research and literature education. By examining the crucial moments when the literary genres and selections significantly changed, this study aims to reveal the often-overlooked ideologies hidden behind the adoption of a specific form in contemporary Taiwan’s literary textbooks. By examining the historical contexts, national policies, public consensus and the particular trajectories of the involved intellectuals, this study aims to explore the possible but less perceptible beliefs behind the adoption of a specific literary form, which is often veiled by common presumptions.

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