In his 1942 Yan’an Talks on Literature and the Arts, Mao established Lu Xun as a model for art workers to emulate. The constant republication of the Talks and propaganda efforts further immortalized Lu Xun as a revolutionary writer, as a revolutionary yielding his brush as a weapon against the enemies of the revolution. Chinese comics – lianhuanhua – are part of these efforts: Lianhuanhua adaptations of Lu Xun’s works and life have been (re)published since at least 1949 and into the present. As sequential visual narratives and as a particularly readerly medium, lianhuanhua offer authors, artists and readers ample space to develop and ponder about the various roles of Lu Xun and his literature. This talk will therefore trace the different Lu Xuns as they appear in Chinese comics. At first glance, the adaptations into the medium of comic seem to purge Lu Xun’s texts of their ambivalence and thus to follow the official rhetoric contributing to the creation of Lu Xun as a revolutionary icon and superhero. However, the readerly qualities of the narratives – depictions of reading, reflections on the nature and roles of writing, and the processes of adaptation – recalibrate this: Lianhuanhua adaptations of Lu Xun and his works, Dr Henningsen argues, bring back Lu Xun, the author of ambivalent literature.
Lena Henningsen is the PI of the Freiburg based ERC funded project ‘The Politics of Reading in the People’s Republic of China’ and currently a visiting researcher at the University of Oxford China Centre. She has worked on Chinese popular literature and culture and published widely, , including her most recent book Cultural Revolution Manuscripts: Unofficial Entertainment Fiction from 1970s China (2021) and translations of a number of Chinese lianhuanhua comics.