Poetics of Rebellion: Hybridity, Minor Narrative, Yang Mu

Poetics of Rebellion: Hybridity, Minor Narrative, Yang Mu
Poetics of Rebellion is a project that responds critically to the birth of Taiwanese identity through a fastidious reading of Yang Mu’s works. Two major postcolonial approaches—hybridity and minor narrative—will be deployed to investigate Yang’s unique voice: hybridity, because he is acclaimed for his hybridization of Taiwanese culture with Chinese tradition and Western literature; minor narrative in relation to the marginalization and suppression of the Taiwanese voice, first, directly by the KMT’s authority during the period of martial law and, more recently, indirectly by the CCP. Through an examination of the postcolonial conditions depicted in Yang Mu’s works from 1970 to 2000, Poetics of Rebellion addresses the following research questions. How does Yang Mu express the ideas of disobedience and discontent? How does his poetry serve as a vehicle to subvert colonial discourse? How can a transcultural writer such as Yang Mu dislocate an official narrative and seek emancipation from it? Given the use of the same language, what is the difference between Taiwanese and Chinese literature? Does a distinctly Taiwanese literature exist, and what is Yang Mu’s position within it?

To answer these questions, Poetics of Rebellion will be divided into six chapters. It begins by exploring the ambivalence behind figurative masks, then discusses, in turn, social engagement and its aspiration toward justice. These are followed by an attempt to comprehend intercultural connections with Western writers such as Federico García Lorca, W. B. Yeats, and Shakespeare. These discussions will lead to an investigation of alternative historical discourses and Yang Mu’s personal mythology in opposition to the official historical narrative and political myths. Using a blend of historical, social, political, and textual analysis, Poetics of Rebellion seeks to contribute to a broader understanding of postcolonial poetry as a tool of resilience and revolt in the face of hegemony.

The contributions of Poetics of Rebellion can be perceived from four dimensions, from the minimal scale of Yang Mu studies, Taiwan studies, Sinophone studies, to the greatest scale of Global South studies and comparative literature. For Yang Mu studies and Taiwan studies, my monograph is the first to use postcolonial approaches to investigate Yang Mu’s works in the history of White Terror. It reflects on Taiwanese colonial history and uses Yang Mu as a paradigm to demonstrate how a local writer can use multiple strategies to challenge the authority, express his love of the land, and assert local identity. In terms of Sinophone studies, my project scrutinizes how a person can cope with the agenda of Sinocentrism promoted by the KMT’s and CCP’s grand narratives. The rebellious strategies can motivate the regions of Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjian, and Mongolia, which constantly suffer from the shocking violence of Chinese government. In the field of Global South studies and comparative literature, my project intends to break the border of Taiwanese literature and the outmoded definition of regional studies, in which non-Western countries are rendered passive and submissive. It actively participates in the local society and the international world. I argue that Yang Mu’s works, no less prominent than that of postcolonial poets such as Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, and Wole Soyinka, have showed his distinctive position in the international postcolonial alliance. In the conclusion of my dissertation, I state that although poetry cannot ensure a happy life, it can nevertheless act as a guide by demonstrating how people should react to authoritarian power and by imagining how the notions of justice, democracy, equality, freedom, and joy might be realized. My analysis of Yang Mu, hopefully, can create a resonance among people who struggle in Global South such as India and Thailand and some European regions such as Catalonia, Scotland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Chechnya in the shadow of hegemony. Their rebellions are not alone, and the authoritarian regimes will one day be defeated.


Wen-chi Li

Defended in

1 Jan 2022 – 30 Nov 2022

PhD defended at

the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, University of Zurich




East Asia