Labor, Alienation, and Aesthetics: Perspectives from Chinese Female Worker Poets

By Yun Li, Rong Rong and Xiaoxiang Qi.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: April 20, 2017 $US5.00

By analyzing the writings of contemporary Chinese female worker poets, this article studies the complicated relationships between labor, alienation, and aesthetics. After differentiating two aesthetic stands—one is “productive,” which relates poetry to production, history, and totality; the other is “aesthetic,” which relates art’s antithetical relationship to reality—the author points out that the former still enlightens worker poets in late capitalism. In Lan Lan’s poetry about pre-modern socialist production, the poet in productive aesthetics questions the now-human condition by presenting realistically an ideal mode of production realized in the past. In Shu Ting’s poem “Streamlines,” the poet declares her antithetical relationship to the “status quo” in resisting the homogenization caused by mechanized production. The aesthetic stand loses its critical power in Zi Li’s poem “Finger Pains,” which describes the alienation in market capitalism. The poet constructs a self-enclosed aesthetic world by dissociating the fate of individual from its social context. In Xiaoqiong Zheng’s poems about the fully alienated life of workers in the twenty-first century, the poet returns to the productive stand and presents a dereified relationship among workers through disclosing sociality as determined by the infrastructure.

Keywords: Labor, Alienation, Productive Aesthetics, Aesthetic Aesthetics

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 15, Issue 2, June 2017, pp.29-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: April 20, 2017 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 584.471KB)).

Yun Li

Professor, School of Foreign Languages, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, China

Dr. Rong Rong

Lecturer, School of Foreign Languages, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, China

Xiaoxiang Qi

MA Student, School of Foreign Languages, South China University of Technologies, Guangzhou, China