Organized Panel Session
If modernism has generally been understood as positioning itself in opposition to tradition, early 20th-century modernity across East Asia had a range of traditions from which to choose. Some writers and artists devised ways to integrate traditional commitments and modern concerns; others repudiated traditional forms, defining their own practice as a break with tradition. Rhetorical invocations of antiquity and modernity also had to contend with contemporary changes in institutions and technologies, which in turn influenced and constituted ideas about modernity and tradition, change and continuity.
This panel explores modernity's search for, reaction against, and appropriation of classical culture across East Asia. Chloe Estep shows how Chinese comic artists in the Republican era reimagined Bai Juyi's pipa player for modern audiences and reveals the role these artists played in creating a re-mediated classical poetics for the modern period. Matthieu Felt surveys late Meiji histories of Japanese literature to determine why their periodization included the Nara period (710-784) as part of antiquity, and why this particular vision of antiquity as a literate era fit Japanese modernity. Frederik Green analyses Zhuo Zuoren’s translations of modern haiku and tanka and shows how they led him to promote the new poetic form of “short verse” (xiaoshi), thereby challenging the perceived role of Western modernists such as Ezra Pound in granting East Asian forms legitimacy as conducive to modernism. Chenxin Jiang shows how Cai Yuanpei appropriated German classical culture in responding to “religion as national salvation” discourse by developing his influential notion of aesthetic education.