Spider Eaters

Rae Yang’s memoir spans the three decades from the 1950s to the 1980s. During those thirty some years, she grew from an enthusiastic and privileged child of the Communist Revolution in China to a disillusioned but wiser adult. During the Cultural Revolution, she enthusiastically joined the Red Guard and later volunteered to work on a farm in the Great Northern Wilderness. Following the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, Yang emigrated to North America where she earned a PhD in comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts and now teaches Chinese language and literature at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. 

As with the previous essays for this course, this essay requires you to read a poignant personal account of a particular period of history, analyze the identity of the author, and contextualize that personal experience within the broader history of the time. In doing so, you should (again) consider Yang’s class, status, gender, age, hometown, etc. to compare and contrast the potentially multiple facets of her identity with those of other people you learned about in this this final unit of the course, such as in the film The Morning Sun (2003), the scholarly article “The Collar Revolution” by Sun Peidong (Moodle), and the Ebrey and Walthall textbook. After having read and thought about these various historical sources, write a 1250-word essay that answers the following three questions: 

  In what ways did Rae Yang’s evolving identity shape her motivations to become a Red Guard, volunteer to work on a farm in the Great Northern Wilderness, and later to become disillusioned with Chairman Mao, the Chinese Communist Party, and the Cultural Revolution? 

 How representative were Yang’s beliefs and experiences with those of other people across the vast country of China during the Cultural Revolution? 

 As shown by Sun Peidong in her article about clothing during the Cultural Revolution, how did Yang and others resist and/or conform to the shifting demands of the Cultural Revolution by using aspects of everyday culture to express their views and their identity during those tumultuous years? 

 In crafting your thesis, make a clear and concise argument that responds to these questions. The body of the essay should be balanced by giving equal attention to each of the questions. In addition, you must support your thesis and each sub-argument by citing at least two pieces of evidence per paragraph (e.g., quotes, paraphrases, statistical information, specific historical examples). Some of this evidence must come from Spider Eaters, but half of your citations must also be from at least two other sources you have encountered in this course. Unless you receive advance permission to use additional sources, please restrict your citations in this paper to the above primary and secondary sources. 

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