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Date 2021-04-27


Taiwanese Novels in the 1990s and Trend toward “Quasi-Elite” Culture


Liu, Nai-Tzu

Assistant Professor, General Education Center, Ching Yun University


Reading Taiwanese novel from the last decade of the 20th century is like reading an encyclopedia. As we sort through the complex maze of the narrative, we are engaged in an engineering project involving a search for hidden meanings and associations word by word, line by line and sentence by sentence. In this era of information explosion, the contents of fiction convey knowledge and information in a way much like encyclopedias. In addition, the elegance of the writing style transforms the experience into both a refinement of knowledge and stimulation of the senses. To a great extent, new trends in attitudes, discourse and fashion are infused the writing of these texts. This not only provides contemporary literature in Taiwan a position on elite culture, but also enables the act of writing to resemble artistic packaging in an increasingly boastful manner. It seems that highlighting the author’s distinctive and unique personal style is far more important than presenting the elements, content and theme of the story. These rather self-conscious attempts to achieve high culture and even the artistic perform that follows careful calculation not only show the significance of these repetitive creations by contemporary authors in their writing. Furthermore, they highlight the fact that fine literature can create symbolic capital that differentiates oneself from others.

With the lift of martial law in Taiwan, local society has become thriving and liberal, and cultural life has become diverse and rich. All these factors have allowed contemporary society to pursue high culture tastes and styles. The transformation of artistic form in contemporary fiction is fully realized in the interaction between the internal artistic characteristics of literature and the external environment of the culture reproduction. Generally speaking, contemporary writers are expert in the use of signs arising from new knowledge in order to create and elevate the symbolic capital and literary rank of their works. This sort of “distinction” (expressing one’s superiority and separation from others) is the main factor that drives literature in the 1990s toward a quasi-elite aesthetic style.

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Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature