An Existentialist Analysis of Gao Xingjian and the Globalization of Existentialism
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The pre-exile dramaturgy of Chinese writer Gao Xingjian is indicative of Chinese dramatist experimentation flourishing in twentieth-century China. Even though his dramatist work has been broadly researched, the existential elements in his plays Bus Stop and The Other Shore have received minor attention. Scholars have already hinted at the prospect of these two plays being analyzed from the perspective of existentialism – and they have explicitly declared his post-exile dramas to be existentialist – yet that has never fully developed into a complete theory. This thesis will present a new critical perspective on Gao’s selected pre-exile dramaturgy, by employing Hans van Stralen’s theory on literary existentialism and his two most salient concepts of existentialist, close-reading analysis: the three semantic topoi of existentialism (the limit situation, the other, and engagement) and three existential themes (enclosed space, authentic outsider, and negative/absent action). Using existential theory to read Gao’s plays, this thesis elaborates on how Gao’s unique adaptation of topoi and themes expands the existential concept, bringing the power dynamics of the collective to the fore and offering critical insight on the dimensionality of space. Ultimately, this will modify the Eurocentric character of existentialism and broaden it with the inclusion of Gaoist-inflected existential ideas.