Agonistic Memory, Compound Temporality and Expansion of Literary Space in Lu Xun

In: Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

The paper examines the ways in which memory is constructed in Lu Xun’s writings, above all his essay (zawen) by means of an artistic staging of its antagonism with forgetting. The author emphasizes the primacy of forgetting, as opposed to recollection conventionally understood, as the centrality of Lu Xun’s stressful, tragic principle of memory. The author argues that, by turning to forgetting as a register of and formal-spatial space for historical and political content, Lu Xun puts his signature stylistic maneuvers and mannerisms in full display. Hence, “memory for the sake of forgetting” must be understood literally, that is, as forgetting functioning as a heightened and intensified form of social protest, albeit in modernistic rather than realistic terms; and through this pressurized and agonistic inner space of convoluted temporality. Furthermore, the author seeks to show that forgetting also serves a representational function that goes hand-in-hand with Lu Xun’s zawen as poetics and chronicle all at once. In Lu Xun’s writing of reminiscence, that which fails to be repressed into silence, despair and oblivion roars back from the depth of an existential void, and reorganizes historical experiences of chaos and danger into a more powerful and intimate encasement and mimesis of reality. Thus, in Lu Xun, a modernist intervention into nothingness makes palpable history’s own structure of conflict, oppression and impasse which simultaneously stands for a metaphysics of defiance and hope.

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