Chapter 7 Nature and Critique of Modernity in Shen Congwen: an Eco-Critical Reading

In: Remembering May Fourth
Author: Ban Wang
  • 1 City University of Hong Kong
  • | 2 University of Pennsylvania

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Abstract

Contemporary environmental crises have their origin in the anthropocentric view of humans as separable from and superior to the natural world. Anthropocentrism also marks the realist author of modern Chinese fiction. Departing from that human-centered view, Shen Congwen’s work evinces a biological perspective and affirms an ecological understanding of life in which the writing self must trace its roots to and reciprocate with other organisms and all-encompassing nature. The animistic language of Shen’s writing delves into the ecological and bodily foundation of beauty and arts. Shen’s notion of the longue durée of biology and evolution debunks the transient zeitgeist of modern transformation and accelerations, propelled by the human domination of nature and alienation of the human body. Shen’s portrayal of sexuality reasserts the reciprocity and entwinement of inner nature with outer nature.

Remembering May Fourth

The Movement and its Centennial Legacy

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