China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
In the twentieth century, premodern Chinese literary criticism underwent a continuous process of reforming, repackaging, and reinventing. It was part of the transformation of traditional Chinese culture, which previously had furnished a discourse that justified the imperial unity, into the birth certificate of a modern nation-state. This panel discusses how, in this context, traditional discourses on key terms, figures, and debates were re-appropriated in the modern era. It not only demonstrates the persistence and resilience of literary legacies as they engaged with a broadened cultural horizon, but also challenges current academic discourse as a product of this reinvention. Zhiyi Yang challenges the notion of patriotism as well as its inherent gendered approach in her study of the modern hagiography of Xin Qiji. Revealing anxiety over how to situate the Chinese literary legacy in a new critical discourse, Lu Kou and Feiran Du examine how writers sought to use indigenous concepts to translate Western ideas associated with “modern” values such as objectivity and individuality. Tom Mazanec continues the interrogation of modernist translation by demonstrating the limitations of “lyric” as a lens through which to view the Chinese poetic tradition shuqing (divulging sentiment). Without embracing a naïve conviction that translation is impossible or the holiness of the tradition is inviolable, all four papers caution against the danger of applying our contemporary critical lens blindly to premodern literature. As the forging of the classical Chinese literary tradition continues to this day, an archaeological approach remains necessary and urgent.