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The May Fourth “new literature” appeared in the early twentieth century China while the avant-garde was sweeping over the West. Both could be defined as radical literary movements by such characteristics as storming criticism of politics, subversive standpoints on traditional culture, language experiments for thoroughly novel forms and criticism with the aestheticism for l’art pour l’art (art for art’s sake). The avant-garde elements in the new literature, by contrast, are believed able to help us see two kinds of shifts in the course of twentiethcentury literature, that is, to see how it shifted from classical to modern literature in the last century: one change was the natural flow of the mainstream literature, subject to the social development and changes, and the other is an avant-garde movement that took a radical stance against the status quo, and was led by ideals of social reforms aiming to realize beyond the generation.

In: Frontiers of Literary Studies in China
In: Prophets Unarmed
Translators: and
How has modern Chinese literature emerged from the collision of domestic social upheaval, foreign inspiration and sparks of creative genius during the past century? Sihe Chen explores this question from a global perspective, analysing how Chinese authors assimilated Western literary movements to create new forms of expression adapted to a society in rapid transformation. The author then examines these global influences in the works of selected contemporary Chinese novelists and poets. He shows that the problems these writers confront are common to all peoples and that Chinese literature expresses not only the story of China, but also that of humanity.