"Stay Loyal to the Earth": The Transcendental, the Teleological, and the Quotidian in Zhou Zuoren’s (1885-1967) Reflections on Modern Life

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2015-01-01
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Li, Tonglu
Li, Tonglu
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Abstract

What Ban Wang sees as "a central dilemma in China's quest for modernity" based on his reading of Xiaobing Tang's Chinese Modern: The Heroic and the Quotidian, is "the dynamic tension between the heroic an the quotidian," around which "[t]he story of modern China evolves." This tension, as Wang puts it, "brings together the utopian yearning of the political community and the private desire for fulfillment, revolutionary passions and domestic routines, mass culture spectacles and self-absorbed aesthetics, and the impulse for transcendence and retreat to everyday enclaves of private life." This insightful observation may help formulate a more philosophically informed framework for our interpretation. That is, by focusing on the inner dynamics of Chinese modernity, the new framework should complement previous ones, which relied upon the opposition of such categories as "traditional" and "modern." It also goes beyond the method of class analysis, making it a more inclusive tool for comprehending the politically charged century of horror and hope.

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This article appeared in Asia Major third series, Vol. 28.2, 2015, pp. 109-145. Posted with permission.

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