Not Just Tears and Laughter Rethinking the Spatiality of Emotions in Zhang Henshui’s Fate in Tears and Laughter (1930)

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Fangyuan Huang


This article rethinks the spatiality of emotions through the lens of Zhang Henshui’s Fate in Tears and Laughter, one of the most popular novels in the Republican era (1911-1949).  Drawing on Ling Hon Lam’s work on the spatiality of emotion in premodern Chinese theater, this study reformulates emotion as a space that transposes an affective body into a spectatorial position in front of the emotion-realm mediated by theatricality. This article sets out to delineate the melodramatic polarization of emotions (tears and laughter), the spatial topography of emotion embedded in geographical loci, and the emotional spectatorship in which a private self is enmeshed in a public domain through bodily engagement in laughing, crying and sympathizing with fictional characters. It contributes to a new understanding of the affective assembly of emotions evoked by reading experiences that is as much innate faculties as coded registers of an imagined community.


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Huang, F. “Not Just Tears and Laughter: Rethinking the Spatiality of Emotions in Zhang Henshui’s Fate in Tears and Laughter (1930)”. Literature and Modern China, vol. 2, no. 1, Sept. 2022, pp. 7-28, doi:10.54591/QGPU5903.


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