This project aims at carrying out research into the Chinese modernists’ reception of the French leftist intellectuals in the 1930s and 1940s. The Chinese modernists’ reception of the Western aesthetic modernism and their contribution to the construction of Chinese modernity have been convincingly argued by scholars in the last three decades. (Lee Ou-fan 1980, 1990, 1999; Shih Shu-mei 1997; Peng Hsiao-yen 2010) On the other hand, discussions on their attachment to the leftist ideologies in China and in Europe have been very limited. It was not until the 1990s that scholars have re-examined the reciprocal influences between the Chinese modernist and leftist literature (Zhang Tongdao 1997; Liu Jianmei 2003; Li Hongwa 2012). A large corpus of Chinese modernists’ writings and translations related to the Leftist intellectuals in Europe, especially in France, has been overlooked, making it a missing chapter in the study of Chinese modernist literature.
The Chinese modernists, deeply inspired by views of the French leftist intellectuals on aesthetics and politics, re-examined their own position on the controversial issues stemming from literature’s role in politics during the politicization of Chinese literary community, during the periods of the League of Left-wing Writers (1930-1936) and Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). The project will focus on three major Chinese modernist “writers-translators-editors,” namely Shi Zhecun, Dai Wangshu and Ye Lingfeng. They translated over 80 titles of literary and political writings by Romain Rolland, André Gide, Henri Barbusse, Paul Vaillant-Couturier, Louis Aragon and André Malraux. Under their editorship, the literary journals and supplements have also published translations of articles from French leftist newspapers and literary reviews including the Humanité, the Commune, the Feuille rouge, and the Monde. By examining their criticism, translations and editorial activities, the project will investigate the Chinese modernists’ reconstruction of French leftist intellectuals’ political-literary figures as well as their re-interpretation of French leftist literature in a Chinese historical context.
The project seeks to contribute to academic studies in three ways. First, it will bring forward an important but long-neglected chapter to the study of Chinese modernist literature and shed new light on the association between this study and French leftist trends. This will deepen our understanding of the transcultural and hybrid nature of Chinese literary modernity. Second, it will break new ground in the study of Twentieth-century Chinese and French comparative literature, as previous studies have been largely focused on Chinese modernists’ attachment to French Symbolism and Modernism. Lastly, as Chinese Left-wing writers were mostly influenced by the Russian and Japanese proletarian movements, the project will extend the research scope of Chinese reception of leftist ideologies and literature by including the contribution from modernist writers.
This research project is an analysis of a large body of ci 詞 poetry written during the late Qing period (1840-1911), focusing on the transformation of the practice of cishi 詞史. It argues that the concept and practice of cishi have initiated reflections among poets on the style of ci poetry and changed their form of expression. Understanding the transitional changes of works in this period will help us to reconsider the common impression that late Qing ci poetry is “conservative”, “obscure” and “unrelated to the real world”.
There are two objectives of the study. First of these is to define the nature of cishi poetry (ci that reflects or relates to historic events known to or experienced by poets). I will research into different forms of expression and outline a gradual and subtle change in writing practices. The second objective is to explain how the change is related to the “stubbornly traditional” image of ci towards the end of Qing and early Republican era.
Reaching its pinnacle in the Song dynasty, ci has formed a unique tradition in form, styles, subject matter and language. It is commonly believed that ci is more suitable for expressing personal feelings than narrating events or casting satire. Despite being an independent genre, ideas from shi 詩 poetics have been continuously introduced in order to elevate the status of ci. The notion cishi comes from shishi 詩史, and gained great popularity among the ci poets who experienced the upheavals of late Qing, and felt the need to record current events and voice out their social and political concerns through ci. The term cishi recurs often in the commentary of contemporary critics of the poets.
The introduction of cishi to both the theory and practice of ci confronted the poets with the lyrical tradition of ci and the narrative nature of recording shi 史. This research illustrates the tensions between narrative and lyrical, arising both in the discussion of poetics and associated writing practices. By re-evaluating the nature of ci and cishi, poets gradually “return” to a more traditional lyric mode of expression. They are, however, not acted upon by the tradition, but create something new by recapturing the old. The project will review and explain this change in an attempt to shed new light on the nature and development of late Qing ci poetry.