As part of the Bellini Colloquium series for spring 2016, Prof. Chun-yu Lu shared her research with the W&M community. On April 21, 2016, Prof. Lu presented a talk entitled “Make Love and War: Chinese Popular Romance in ‘Greater East Asia,’ 1937-1945.”
Prof. Lu’s talk focused on Chinese popular romances produced and consumed in the Japanese colonized and occupied regions during the Second Sino-Japanese War and investigates the complex relationships between emotion, representation, and consumption vis-à-vis wartime politics.
In the talk Prof. Lu introduced two of her case studies of Chinese popular romances under Japan’s domination. The first case is Begonia, a tremendously popular novel and its theatrical and cinematic adaptions in wartime Shanghai. The second case is a popular writer, Wu Mansha, a Chinese mainlander in colonial Taiwan and his propagandist romance that promoted Japanese imperialism in the Chinese language.
Prof. Lu suggested that when Begonia in Shanghai intends to tell a tragic love story of two individuals and their sufferings, its dramatic articulation stimulates a shared sense of victimhood and an indirect protest collectively. In contrast, when Wu Mansha explicitly promoted young couples to unite and fight for the “greater good,” the propagandist messages in his popular romance novel was used for his personal safety and private profits. By comparing these popular romances, Prof. Lu argued that while the wartime regime dictated that private emotions and love are to be devoted to the ultimate public needs—the war, and hence the individual would merge with the collective and eventually disappear, through writing and consuming popular romances writers and readers reaffirm their individual existence when they struggle between the tensions of patriotic love and romantic love. So paradoxically, wartime popular romance is a collective channel for confirming individual existence.