mao - Jonathan Spence's Mao Zedong versus Dr. Li Zhisui's...

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Jonathan Spence’s Mao Zedong versus Dr. Li Zhisui’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao As with all authors, Jonathan Spence had a specific motivating factor when he authored Mao Zedong . Spence is offering a book that is easy to read and provides readers with a basic snapshot of Mao’s life. Dr. Li Zhisui was motivated by very different reasons when he penned his memoir, titled The Private Life of Chairman Mao . Dr. Li is offering an opportunity to gain a much sharper and darker picture of Mao’s life. However, he is not sharing his story to educate the masses. By writing this biography honestly, Dr. Li has experienced a catharsis Jonathan Spence and Dr. Li Zhisui both wrote comprehensive biographies of Mao Zedong, both of which are similar in facts; however, I believe that the writing styles of the two aforementioned authors give insight into their particular purpose. In Mao Zedong, Jonathan Spence examines Mao Zedong’s entire life in a rather brisk fashion. As he explains in the foreword, “One goal of this book is to show how Mao was able to rise so high, and sustain his eccentric flight for quite so long. Context was naturally intrinsic to the drama, and the narrative tries to introduce the essential background that any reader needs to make sense of Mao’s life (Spence p. xii).” Spence has limited the scope of his investigations to accommodate this goal as well as narrated a story that emphasizes details of Mao’s life that illustrate support for his intention. Therefore, Spence is forced to leave out details that some might consider intrinsic to the understanding Mao.
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Dr. Li has very different purpose for publishing his manuscript, The Private Life of Chairman Mao . Due to his birds-eye view of Mao’s life, he is emotionally vested in illuminating details that he feels are significant. Often times, these details are drawn from his memory and are not confirmable by any public record. Dr. Li very clearly states, “I am not writing a biography of Mao. I am instead recording what I saw and heard during the twenty-two years when I was Mao’s personal physician (Li p. xx).”
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This note was uploaded on 05/10/2008 for the course HIST 450 taught by Professor Platt during the Fall '05 term at UMass (Amherst).

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mao - Jonathan Spence's Mao Zedong versus Dr. Li Zhisui's...

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