Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, China (People's Republic)
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Unlike Hu Shi, Chen Duxiu, and other leading intellectuals in the New Culture Movement, Lu Xun had no experience of writing in baihua (vernacular) in his early years. Except for two novels by Jules Verne that he translated (via Japanese) in the early 1900s, all his writings before 1918 were produced in wenyan (literary Chinese), until Diary of a Madman was published in May of that year. Despite the well-known fact that Lu Xun wrote his first vernacular fiction at the quest of Qian Xuantong, the sudden and seemingly effortless change in Lu Xun’s linguistic choice remains a mystery—he rarely did anything just to fit in. This presentation will shed new light on this issue by focusing on Lu Xun’s understanding and practice of sheng (voice) in his early works. I first explore the meaning of the term xinsheng (heart-voice) in his thought and connect it to the rendering of subjectivity in his writings and translations in late Qing. His archaic style (guwen) implies, paradoxically, both his effort to deliver the repressed inner “heart-voice” and the suspicion of his ability to do so. I then try to understand Lu Xun’s motivation for the change in linguistic register. The vernacular provided him with a channel of constructing inter-subjectivity by appealing to a wide public, thus emancipating him from the dilemma of expressing “heart-voice.” Throughout the first two decades of the twentieth century, Lu Xun’s perception and application of written language was closely interwoven with his concern for subjectivity.