This paper examines the performative significance of Lu Xun’s historical short stories collected in Gushi xinbian (Old stories retold, 1936) by focusing on the mediality of his idiosyncratic writing, which he himself called “facetious.” It revisits the young Lu Xun’s uneasy engagement with medical science as student documented in his lecture notebooks bearing corrections by his teacher as well as his early essays. This provides an analytical framework for discussing the stakes of his historical fiction as a critique of the discourse of scientific historiography which was increasingly gaining currency in May Fourth China. Lu Xun’s historical fiction is conspicuously not meant to function as a stable medium between the past and the present but betrays its opaque and even arbitrary mediality, which disrupts identity in historical representation and thus critiques ideological, “cultural” power inherent in scientific discourse that tries to establish that identity. The paper then reads Gushi xinbian as attempts at recovering history from such power and envisioning new possibilities of historical transmission in the midst of an aporetic search of a prehistory of Chinese modernity—attempts hinged on anachronistic textual moments whose meanings circulate in defiance of any identity of time with itself, thereby bespeaking an alternative power to “make” history.
While the discourse of national literature was fully espoused in modern China, many Chinese classics were transposed into Europe and had a unique impact on European modernist literature. Overshadowed by these oft-discussed dynamics are Chinese modernists’ own engagements with the nation’s classics. Focusing on Daodejing, the foundational work of the Daoist canon, this paper compares Lu Xun’s modernist retelling of the legend of the birth of Daodejing with Walter Benjamin’s commentary on Bertolt Brecht’s poem featuring the same anecdote. This paper argues that both works, by reconstructing the scene of Daodejing’s first inscription, engage with this text in its lost original moment, which precedes any national identification. They open the text up to other configurations, thereby projecting alternative literary worlds. This paper thus questions the dominant conception of world literature as consisting of the circulation of nationally identified works of literature.
East Asian Comparative Literature and Culture responds to the urgent need for a more complex understanding and appreciation of this region by publishing substantial comparative research on the literary and cultural traditions of East Asia and their relation to the world. We showcase original research on the methodology and practice of comparison, including intra- and trans-regional comparisons of China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam; explorations of entanglements and mutual representations of Western and East Asian traditions; examinations of the relationship between the East Asian Sinographic Sphere and non-Sinographic textual cultures such as Manchu, Uyghur, and Tibetan; and multipolar comparisons that examine East Asian literatures and cultures in the light of their relations with South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America.
The series focuses on the interpretive sciences, namely core humanities disciplines such as literature, history, religion, philosophy and thought, art history, musicology, performance or media studies. It also welcomes contributions adopting culturally-informed approaches in archeology, historical geography, anthropology, political science, sociology, or linguistics. Our historical moment demands that we as scholars combine comparative analysis with the depth of area-study-expertise and philology, theoretical acumen, and a courageous orientation towards the exploration of fundamental questions that matter to us today. This is the tall order that this book series and the authors we feature are taking on. We are confident, however, that East Asian Comparative Literature and Culture will enable a deeper mutual understanding, and successfully integrate knowledge about and approaches to different literary and cultural traditions through critical comparative examination. We see clearly the relevance of the humanities to the world we are living in now, and aim to make significant contributions to humanistic scholarship and, ultimately, to the creation of a less divisive, more equal, and better world for all.