Influenced by the latest aesthetic trends from the West, Chinese modernist literature, however, found itself nurtured in the Sino-Japanese War. The works of Dai Wangshu, a prominent modernist poet and translator of the time, provide us with an opportunity to look into the complexities of modernist practice in China. Most scholars prefer to emphasize Dai's attachment to Western modernism and therefore confine their attention to his publications in Shanghai. This proposed project aims at carrying out extensive research into the body of work published during his exile in Hong Kong (1938-1949). Based on hitherto-neglected source materials, it will examine central issues concerning his views on poetry, his foreign influences and his reflection on the role literature in wartime politics.
More specifically, the project will address the following key questions: 1. How did Dai Wangshu perceive "war literature" during the Sino-Japanese War? With reference to the European war literature he introduced to Hong Kong, how did he deal with the contradiction between pure aesthetics and ideological commitment in his writing and translation of war literature? 2. Why did Dai emphasize the poetic qualities of fiction he translated during wartime? How does this help us better understand his theory of poetry? 3. How did Dai develop his own interest in Russian literature under the influence of French leftist intellectuals? In what way did his perspective on Russian literature in Hong Kong differ from that in Shanghai?
Through an intertextual analysis of Dai Wangshu's works of translation, literary criticism and cultural criticism, the project will give weight to the historical environment in which his works appeared and to the cultural and ideological implications of his translations. Treating Dai as a wartime Chinese modernist, the project will extend the study scope of Chinese modernist writers by covering their works published in Hong Kong. It will also testify to the importance of Hong Kong in the development of Chinese modernist literature.
Research on Dai Wangshu has been hampered by the relative inaccessibility of his Hong Kong output. During the course of the project, a large corpus of Dai's undeservedly obscure work will be published and a searchable database relating to his oeuvre will be made freely available for the general public and the interested researcher thereby making a significant contribution to the field of study as well as to facilitate future work in comparative literary studies and translation studies.