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Chinese Literature cannot lose its roots

Author  :  LI JIANJUN     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-05-23

On the Live of Discourse of the Traditional Literary Theory in China

Author: Gu Feng

Publisher: Social Sciences Academic Press (China)

Since 1840, considered the beginning of China’s modern era, Chinese culture and literature have often found themselves in two conflicting situations: the conflict between old metaphysical, theoretical learning and new pragmatic, utilitarian learning, and the conflict between Western and traditional Chinese learning.

In his book, On the Live of Discourse of the Traditional Literary Theory in China, Gu Feng tries to break the one-dimensional thinking modes and research patterns, holding positive attitudes about the double-track development pattern of Chinese literature: a main track of foreignization and an auxiliary track of localization. Gu writes that Chinese literary theory has been basically modernized since 1919, establishing the fundamental framework for modern literary theory in China. Chinese discourse on literary criticism has not withered away, but have been tacitly handed down.

However, in the last two or three decades, the localization path has gradually lost its position and influence. Gu suggests that the problems related to Chinese literature exist because it lost its roots in traditional Chinese literary criticism. To cure this “memory loss” in literary theory and criticism, Gu said modern Chinese literary theory should transform from following the West to returning to Chinese tradition, from copying Western literary criticism discourse to traditional Chinese discourse. He also suggested rediscovering the values of the traditional Chinese theory of literary criticism and reestablishing its status. “A long time ago we gave up our discourse power, and we did not actively fight for our discursive rights. Hence, we lost the chance for dialogue and, naturally, we cannot express ourselves properly,” he said.

This book aims not to refute literary theories in the Western nations, nor does it attempt to establish a singular pattern for constructing literary discourses, but rather emphasizes an equal dialogue between Chinese and Western literary discourse. Chinese literary theory should maintain its uniqueness as well as learn broadly from others’ advantages.

Gu attempts to explore and establish an active and dominant pattern for inheriting Chinese literary theory. He accepts the ideas about change proposed by Liu Xie (c.465-520) in his work, The Literary Mind of the Carving of Dragons that “Literary creation should be made by observing the current social situation and the rules for literary creation should be made by studying ancient masterpieces. “Gu proposed four ways to transform Chinese literary theory: changes in category, ideas, methodology and system.

This book investigates the internal values and existing situation of Chinese literary theory by exploring concrete and conceptual discourse. Gu investigates the nature and function of Chinese literary discourse through “force words” that reveal the spirit of these discourses. This book conducts microscopic research on four major types of discourse—literature, a poem which expresses one’s aspirations, artistic conceptions, and beauty, revealing the uniqueness and charm of traditional Chinese literary discourse.

Editor: Yu Hui

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