Monday, August 31, 2009

A Case of Sodomy

Some steamy legal history from one of my classmates, Hu Xiangyu. I place this here on the off-chance I might follow up during a more general course of research on sexuality in China.
That evening, Prince Zhuang ordered Bayanshan and Zengfu to move Jia Huating’s bedclothes to a room where they slept together and the prince sodomized Jia Huating. Later on, Prince Zhuang sodomized Jia Huating many times. He also sodomized another boy in the twelfth month of the year.

On the first day of the sixth month, in the sixteenth year of the Daoguang reign (1836), through the introduction of Chen Wu, a civilian from Zhili province Jia Yu pawned his thirteen-sui son Jia Huating to Prince Zhuang’s household to learn the qingyin style of drama for three years. Prince Zhuang paid fifteen diao of copper money and promised that Jia Yu could take Jia Huating back after three years. But Prince Zhuang ordered Jia Huating to serve in the main room in the tenth month of that year. Prince Zhuang ordered two of his third-degree guards, Bayanshan and Zengfu, to look after Jia Huating. One day in the tenth month, Prince Zhuang granted a silver watch to Jia Huating and let Jia Huating eat together with him. That evening, Prince Zhuang ordered Bayanshan and Zengfu to move Jia Huating’s bedclothes to a room where they slept together and the prince sodomized Jia Huating. Later on, Prince Zhuang sodomized Jia Huating many times. He also sodomized another boy in the twelfth month of the year.
When Jia Yu wanted to visit his son, he asked Chen Wu to help him go to the prince’s household on the fourth day of the first month, in the seventeenth year of the Daoguang reign. Chen Wu had already heard that Jia Huating was sodomized by Prince Zhuang. He told Jia Yu that Prince Zhuang didn’t let his son study drama but rather made him serve in the main room. Chen Wu helped Jia Yu to enter Prince Zhuang’s household. When Jia Yu saw his son and discovered that his son was sodomized by Prince Zhuang, he wanted to take Jia Huating back home, but worried that the prince’s household would not permit it and that the prince would take back the body price (shenjia) given for his son. Therefore Jia Yu accused Prince Zhuang at the Yamen of the Commander-general of Metropolitan Infantry Brigade. After the accusation, Jia Yu declared that he would cancel the accusation if Prince Zhuang would agree to send his son back and to pay for their traveling expenses. He asked Chen Wu to send a letter to the prince’s household to propose the deal but Chen refused.
The Commander-general of the Metropolitan Infantry Brigade transferred the case to the Board of Punishment. The Board of Punishment informed the Imperial Clan Court and these two yamens judged the case together. The jurists adjudicated both Prince Zhuang and the boy as commoners. The jurists stated that Prince Zhuang should receive a punishment of 80 blows of the heavy bamboo according to the statute of “consensual illicit sex” and the thirteen-sui-old boy Jia Huating was immunized from punishment due to his young age. It was legal and appropriate that Jia Yu charge Prince Zhuang after he knew that his son had been sodomized by Prince Zhuang. Jia Yu was not punished for accusing Prince Zhuang. But because Jia Yu tried to make a deal with Prince Zhuang and Chen Wu acted as a middleman when Jia Yu pawned his son as an actor to the prince household, both of them should receive 80 blows of the heavy bamboo according to the statute “doing that which ought not to be done, serious cases.” Bayanshan and Zengfu had complied with their master’s order to move Jia Huating’s bedclothes, but they were to be exempted from punishment.
Yidou being a prince, there was no precise article to regulate how he should be punished for a crime of 80 blows of the heavy bamboo. The Board of Officials (libu) answered that if an official committed a personal crime (sizui) of 80 blows of they heavy bamboo, the official should be demoted three ranks and commuted to another position, and the punishment could not be offset. According to the Substatute of Imperial Clan Court, if a hereditary official (shizhi guanyuan) would be demoted to lower rank and to another place due to some inappropriate deeds, every rank should be commuted to a fine of half-salary for three years. Therefore, Prince Zhuang’s punishment should be commuted to a fine of half salary as a prince (qinwang feng) for nine years, and the fine should not be offset. Also, the jurists asked the emperor to order the Imperial Clan Court to supervise the prince household to expel the other twenty-six young boys who were learning drama and let their relatives take them back.
But when this case was sent to the emperor for approval, the Daoguang Emperor said: “Prince Zhuang’s crime has been commuted to a fine of half prince salary for nine years. The punishment is definitely based on the substatutes. However, what he did is really despicable, so Yidou will be fined his full prince salary for five years as a an example and a warning.”
My classmate Hu Xiangyu notes, "This case is cited from JJCLF: 03-3780-034; Xuzeng xing’an huilan (abbr. XZXAHL, A Continuing Edition of the Conspectus of Legal Cases), vol. 14: 431; Qing xuanzong shilu, vol.294: 25b-26a. The emperor did not mention other’s punishments in these sources. Generally, other punishments should also be approved. This is not a severe case, the jurists memorialized it to the emperor due simple to Prince Zhuang’s distinguished status."

Update, 10/14/2009: Hu Xiangyu gave me a copy of the Chinese text a few weeks ago. I think it might be worth it to go through this carefully, if only I can find the time.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

We just some country boys - country walk, country talk

...Don't bring it round here 'less ya know fa sho' it's jumpin off

Shen Congwen with Zhang Zhaohe (later his wife)

So the last paper I translated contained this passage:
It can be said that works of the Beijing School always manifest two types of clearly opposed worlds: one is the world of the rural villages, one is the more civilized cities and towns. But even though they clearly bring a critical eye to the representation of the urban world, actually this is mostly a foil for their beloved rural world. This is also extremely strange, because the Beijing School writers are mostly sophisticated intellectuals, yet they praise the pastoral, frequently taking on their own “pastoral” personae with great satisfaction. Shen Congwen put it well when he said, “I must ask you to compare two of my short works, “Baizi” and “Portrait of Eight Steeds” (Ba jun tu), so you can understand my moral sensibility, what is good, what bad, about rural villages, those great loves of intellectuals. You’ll see what makes a country person country, and how this is reflected concretely in my work.”
"Country person" doesn't sound as good as I'd like, but it does sort of remind me that there is a similar aesthetic at work between American and Chinese celebrations of unsophisticated rustics.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Game of 'Pot Toss' 投壶

'Pitch Toss,' Qing Dynasty Painting (from here)

...In addition, some scholars think 'pot toss' was originally the same thing as the rite of archery, a civic activity fashioned by the sages that was suited for building civic feeling in both small communities and for the whole kingdom. The goal was to "bring the hearts and minds of the people back to fairness (zhong zheng)." The great Song dynasty Confucian Sima Guang explained the relation between 'pot toss' and the cultivation of the self as follows: "Now with pot toss, not putting out there too far nor putting out there too short is what we mean by 'zhong.' Not knocking it down and letting it spill out all over the place is what we call 'zheng.' ...when we observe carefully the location the arrow must strike to approach the pot, our natures are silent yet without secret, we add to our attention without becoming too excited, our will approaches closely to fairness. Even if for just a brief time, we can accustom ourselves to it. Isn't that the Way of cultivating hearts and minds?" This explanation had a great influence: Sun Chuanfang's 'pot toss' theory comes from this. (--- article)

Click here to watch a clip from Red Cliff that features this game.

Sun Chuanfang was a warlord whose advocacy of 'pot toss' was something both Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren found obnoxious, and I suppose that they take the view of the character at the end of the clip, that a petty warlord with little chance of winning the battle to unify China should not try to imitate a rite from ancient high culture. Maybe Zhou Zuoren was angrier, because he cared about high culture. Maybe Lu Xun was able to simply dismiss it as a benighted peasant demagogue with the usual passion for a no-less benighted high culture of antiquity.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Estrangement of the Zhou Brothers

This is my working draft of a translation I will turn in next week for some extra money from a new group of scholarly translators working out of New York.

This elder Zhou brother got roast beef, and the younger Zhou brother got none.

The Fall of "Authority" to and the Estabishment of "Self" : An Alternative Look at the Estrangement of the Zhou Brothers

by Lin Fenfen 林分份


During the period between when elder and younger brother worked together harmoniously and after May Fourth, when a falling-out and later a permanent break led the brothers to unceasing attacks on each other, in Zhou Zuoren's evolving ethical and intellectual notions, Lu Xun's concept of "authority" (quanwei) fell in value, while Zhou Zuoren's own concept of "self" (ziwo) gradually established itself. The complexity and unique features of Zhou Zuoren's concept of "self-fashioning" illustrate the very different path he took from other May Fourth cultural thinkers, particularly in that he departed from their "commonality" (tongyixing).

. . .

After May 4th, when Zhou Zuoren became a leader in the literary field, he severed relations not only with his brother Lu Xun, but also with his long-time teacher, Zhang Taiyan. This abrupt and complete break of bonds between brothers and between teacher and student certainly drew people's attention. Ever since the events themselves, the break-up of the Zhou brothers has been a popular and controversial topic within modern literature research. This paper takes the break-up of the brothers as a starting point, but then turns away from direct investigation of the factor behind the break-up to instead consider a "before and after" portrait of Zhou Zuoren: how differences between his theoretical stance, his cultural advocacy and even his own personality grew into opposition with Lu Xun. From this perspective we observe the potential psychological aspects of Zhou Zuoren's concept of "the self" during the course of its development in his writings., and we go on to illustrate the complexity and unique features of his concept of "self fashioning," with some notes on the significance of this topic for modern Chinese intellectual history.

Section 1: Once They Were Inseparable

It is common knowledge that the elder Lu Xun and the younger Zhou Zuoren grew up with different positions in the family, and took up different family roles. After the death of their father, Zhou Boyi (1861—1896), Lu Xun took over as head of the family. On social occasions, it was Lu Xun who paid courtesy visits, received guests, and paid return visits. As a son of the family himself, Zhou Zuoren also occasionally was forced to take up such duties, but for the most part he led a freer, more leisurely life. We can see this in just an excerpt from Zhou's diary from 1901:
First Lunar Month, the 8th: After breakfast, big brother goes to the Zhang residence for to offer New Year's greetings. I don't go.
The 17th: New Year's Sacrifices at Longjunzhuang Ancestral Temple [in Shaoxing, the family's home town]. I don't go.
The 21st: Big brother and Eighteenth Grand-uncle visit villages in the south. I don't go.
Zhou Zuoren placed himself on the outside of family activities, in marked contrast to the assertive household head, Lu Xun. This situation persisted for nearly forty years, and later reappeared in the family's Beijing residence, Badaowan. Historical materials demonstrate clearly enough that the Zhou residence Badaowan was entirely managed by Lu Xun, from inspection, purchase, obtaining loans, settling the deed, renovating the interiors and even buying the furniture. Zhou Zuoren at this time had taken his wife and children back to Japan to visit her family. Only when the new residence was scrubbed and ready did he return to Beijing with his wife and children, as well as his wife's maternal uncle. All the consideration he gave to the new residence was summed up once by Lu Xun's wife, Xu Guangping, with more than a hint of blame: just once did he bring his family over by carriage to observe Badaowan as renovations neared completion, and on another occasion he delivered a copy of the deed to the police station.

When the two brothers were studying abroad in Tokyo together, Lu Xun was passionate about "national salvation," which drove him to attend closely to contemporary social problems even as he made a comprehensive study of all forms of learning. Zhou Zuoren lacked Lu Xun's passion; rather, he seemed to enjoy quietude and long, leasurely courses of reading. Remembering the planning session for the journal New Life (Xin sheng) fifty years later, Zhou Zuoren says, "Lu Xun pulled me in and made me a member." Whenever there was something Lu Xun was passionate about, Zhou Zuoren also participated, but most of the time he was a passive subject in the endeavor. Later, he fell in love with Hata Nobuku 羽太信子 whom he married. He never worked as hard as Lu Xun; it is said that Lu Xun once punched him for this. Lu Xun may well have done so, given that twice in his own reminiscences mentions that, as a child, he was violent toward one of his younger brothers (said to be the third brother, Zhou Jianren) for not flying a kite correctly. From this we can glimpse the family tyrant lurking in Lu Xun just behind the figure of the authority-wielding older brother. The incident in which Lu Xun later forced Zhou Zuoren back to China from Japan is especially telling.

As eldest brother, Lu Xun cared for Zhou Zuoren's daily living, and gave him the utmost support in all that the younger brother studied. In June of 1909, two months after Zhou Zuoren had been married, Lu Xun suddenly decided to stop writing in Japan, to abandon plans to study in German, and to instead return home to China to teach. He did this so that he could support his younger brother's continued life and study in Japan. Despite taking these measures, Lu Xun's economic circumstances eventually grew so poor that some of the money he sent to Zhou Zuoren was only raised when Lu Xun sold off parts of the family property. With great difficulty, Lu Xun struggled for the next two years as he waited for Zhou Zuoren to obtain his degree, at which point he urged Zuoren to return quickly to China. But Zhou Zuoren, still a newlywed and accustomed to an easy life, had no intention of returning home immediately; he wished to go to France for further study. Under the circumstances, Lu Xun had no choice but to go to Japan personally to fetch Zhou Zuoren and his new family. This even goes some way towards explaining the positions of authority in the family. Lu Xun as elder brother took responsibility for the family's finances, but he also held the authority to end his younger brother's studies. Personally going to Japan to bring his brother back to China demonstrates the position of authority that he held in the family. In other words, Lu Xun frequently took the role of the father in that he sacrificed himself and did everything for the benefit of Zhou Zuoren. But at the same time this behavior carries forward, thinly veiled, the traditional Chinese system of patriarchy. It is hard to say whether the sort of authority-taking that Lu Xun exhibited ever repressed the development of Zhou Zuoren's own personality and own self awareness, but at the very least, we can see that before the brothers broke up with each other in July, 1923, Zhou Zuoren followed his older brother in all matters of work and study. Rarely did he even have any opportunities to decide or arrange anything for himself. In this regard, it is possible that Zhou Zuoren seldom if ever involved himself in practical matters of any kind. Adrift in his own world of leisure, Zhou Zuoren perhaps lacked the capacity to selflessly and pragmatically handle his own affairs later in life.

In day-to-day affairs, Lu Xun frequently asserted the authority of a father over Zhou Zuoren. When it came to literature and to study in general, Lu Xun from the very beginning took up the role of elder "mentor." When the two brothers studied abroad together in Tokyo, Lu Xun not only revised and corrected Zhou Zuoren's translation work in the Informal History of the Red Star (Hong xing yi shi) and Sturdy Grass (Jin cao) and in their collaborative collection Fiction from Beyond (Yu wai xiaoxhuo ji), he even wrote up the clean copies. For Zhou Zuoren's efforts at education, Lu Xun not only helped his brother publish his early conjectural articles such as "A Study of Childen's Tales" and "An Outline of Children's Tales" in the Ministry of Education Monthly, he also personally helped him collect and copy out three traditional children's songs of Beijing. This situation persisted through 1919, with Lu Xun not only revising Zhou's vernacular poems including "Two Men Sweeping Snow" (Liang ge sao xue de ren,) "Twilight" (Wei ming), "Rivulet" (Xiao he), "Whom I met on the Road" (Lu shang suo jian), and "North Wind" (Bei feng), "Men Bearing Arms" (Bei qiang de ren). Even Zhou's original contributions to the May Fourth journal New Youth (Xin qing nian) were mostly revised under Lu Xun's supervision.

Especially remarkable is just how much Lu Xun worked to publicize Zhou Zuoren's name, whether it be the preface to the new edition of their collaborative collection of translations, Fiction from Around the World (Yu wai xiao shuo ji), or in the collection that Lu Xun had spent over ten years of his life creating, Old Texts of Kuaiji (Kuaji jun gu shu za ji). From these examples, we can see that even as Lu Xun thought first of his brother and placed his own profit and reputation second, at the same time Lu Xun gave to his less-experienced brother strategic support that far exceeds the normal relationship of "master" and "disciple." As for Zhou Zuoren, that he agreed to allow his name to appear below Lu Xun's may not, as one researcher has claimed, "demonstrate that Zhou Zuoren loved to build his own reputation under false pretenses," but at the very least it does demonstrate that Zhou Zuoren's self-awareness had not yet reached the point that he would refuse the rewards -- or the directions -- of his elder brother.

But things didn't stop there. To help Zhou Zuoren establish himself in the educational world of Beijing, Lu Xun not only asked for the help of Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940, President of Peking University from 1916 to 1927), he also personally assisted Zhou Zuoren to produce teaching materials for his courses at Peking University. Zhou Zuoren may have been an instructor at Peking University, but his lecture notes had to pass muster before Lu Xun before they ever saw the lecture hall. On the one hand this shows the dependence, in intellectual terms, of the younger brother on the older. But on the other hand, we can also see from this the great importance that Lu Xun ascribed to teaching at Peking University. The success that Zhou Zuoren later had as a lecturer at Peking University can never be separated completely from the care and attention given him by his older brother. Even many years later, Zhou Zuoren would never forget these close bonds of the "master" supporting the "disciple."

Section 2: The Impulse to Distance

From his first efforts at literary translation, to compiling his lecture notes, to the writings that brought him fame in the New Youth period, Zhou Zuoren's work always received polish and corrections from Lu Xun. This gives us some indication of Zhou's acknowledgment of the "master-disciple" relationship that had so far existed between the older and the younger brother. Viewed objectively, before their major falling-out, Zhou Zuoren seems to have held this elder brother who was like a father and a teacher to him in the greatest respect and esteem. He was certainly not overly critical of his elder brother, as some scholars have said. But, after the falling-out, Zhou Zuoren's emnity for Lu Xun ran deep, even if it was more-often-than-not veiled. This enormous rift, along with the psychological motives behind it, deserve further investigation.

Zhou Zuoren's opposition to Lu Xun's writing mostly falls under these topics: love and marriage, politics and philosophy, and arts and culture. Examining a step further, Zhou's various indirect criticisms -- which at times reached the level of insult -- were not momentary flashes of disagreement, but rather the products of a consistent position. In March of 1925, Lu Xun had published an essay called "Plans for Sacrifice" (Xi sheng mou) which satirized selfish profit-seekers who sought to demand sacrifices of others; these profit-seekers even went so far as to demand that other people give up their last remaining pair of shorts in "sacrifice." Five months later, Zhou faced off against this position in an essay of his own. "Speaking of sacrifice," he wrote, "Since I'm getting on in years, and have no need for love, it seems there's really no sense in trying it..." At the time, Lu Xun and Xu Guangping had just met, the fact of which Zhou was naturally quite aware, and this criticism of sacrifice most certainly affected the "love" between Lu Xun and Xu Guangping. Here, Zhou strikes directly at the issues of Lu Xun's age and romantic engagements. These would ever after be main themes of his opposition.

A particularly representative example of such critique is the 1930 essay, "Middle Age" (Zhong nian), in which Zhou writes:
If youth is the age of romance, then middle age is that of wisdom, while old age is then no more than a waiting room for death. But here in China things are so often topsy-turvy, frequently we find that youth are made old all at once when they mimic the ways of the Daoist masters who seek to go beyond the concerns of this world. Once they get to middle age, though, their interests in the birds and bees is all at once renewed. They begin to expound greatly on love and so forth, which puts them on the same path as the young. Some of them may even catch up to the young!

You may say we need not attend to the universal relations between men and women, but then we meet with well-spoken advocates for women's rights and social reform, pillars of the community themselves, who yet follow tradition in taking concubines or other such behavior. Here the proletariat leader is soaked in the hot spring of aristocracy, yet commands the masses to charge forward. Isn't it a bit ridiculous? Wouldn't you say the is an animal of a different stripe? I think that in a civilized society, moral controls should be quite broad. They should also be sincere. Deeds not in accord with words is a form of trickery. We must all harden our hearts against cheating.

Here it is not hard to see that such terms as "middle age," "waiting room for death," "well-spoken advocates for women's rights and social reform, pillars of the community themselves, who yet follow tradition in taking concubines or other such behavior," and "proletariat leader soaked in the hot spring of aristocracy" all refer pointedly to elements associated with Lu Xun: his age, one of his pen names, the title of a lecture he gave, and the title of one of his critical essays. Zhou Zuoren's intent is made all too clear with phrases like "walking in winter yet commanding the spring," "lecturing greatly on love," and "follow tradition in taking concubines." Zhou is speaking quite directly of the troubled marriage between Lu Xun and Xu Guangping, with words like "animal" and "trickery" demonstrating the intensity of his rancor regarding this topic.

That Zhou Zuoren should here treat Lu Xun's pet themes of "authority" and "trustworthiness" could from an optimistic perspective be described as the product of the accumulated influence that Lu Xun has had on Zhou. But it would be more accurate to say that Zhou's words actually reflects what he thought of Lu Xun just before their falling-out. The respect and obedience that Zhou gave to Lu Xun before their falling-out -- to the point that Zhou allowed Lu Xun to revise Zhou's essays -- effectively demonstrates that Zhou acknowledged and agreed to the the bonds of "authority" and "trust" between elder and younger brother. But after the falling-out, Zhou time and again attacked Lu Xun on the issue of love and marriage, the act of which helped him erode his trust in Lu Xun's authority. One way to understand the vast difference in Zhou's attitudes before and after this falling-out, and to understand why he could not let go of the issue of Lu Xun's marriage, is to imagine that on an unconscious level, this was actually a method for convincing himself. That is to say, Zhou Zuoren needed to extricate himself from the forms of "trust" and "authority" that had developed during his long association with Lu Xun, thereby removing the over-determining influence of Lu Xun in his life. The issue of love and marriage was perhaps merely the best entry-point for this effort to develop his own individual morality. In other words, it is possible that during the course of his repeated attacks on Lu Xun on the issue of love and marriage, Zhou Zuoren publicly constructed a form of morality that was distinct and separate from that of his elder brother who so often performed the roles of "father" and "teacher." In this way Zhou was able to gain an alternative form of satisfaction for his previous "self" that had been perpetually repressed. At the same time that he gained satisfaction by distancing himself from Lu Xun, Zhou Zuoren's own self awareness began gradually to appear. One of the basic components of this self awareness may have been the self consciousness brought on by this impulse to distance himself.

Section 3

The features of these conflicting impulses appear in Zhou's 1926 essay, "Goodbye to My First Teacher."

Although Lu Xun says that his time studying with Zhang Binglin was short, and he had never been called the protegé of Zhang, still Lu Xun his whole life treated Zhang Binglin with the respect of a student for his teacher. He was respectful, and took pains to explain Zhang's words. In public, Zhang was always "Master Taiyan." More than once, Lu Xun used his own funds to sponsor publication of Zhang's various writings. Although he also frequently said that he had completely forgotten everything he had learned about orthography and pronunciation studies from his teacher, in actuality, he never fully abandoned what he had learned. This is apparent in the case of his work on Ministry of Education's Working Group to Unify Character Pronunciation, where Lu Xun had steadfastly supported Zhang's pronunciation guides, as well as in Lu Xun's later years, when he returned time and again to his own projected history of the evolution of Chinese character forms. In both cases there is a contradiction between Lu Xun's actual practice and his own recollection. This paradoxical stance -- one that even seems hypocritical -- nevertheless reflects Lu Xun's true attitude towards the intellectual inheritance of his teacher. Lu Xun wanted it to be clear to everyone that Zhang Binglin was a true revolutionary, a pioneering figure, and he wished to present the value of the man's intellectual achievements, albeit in a self-deprecating manner (he often called himself "unqualified" to speak on Zhang Binglin). The self-deprecation itself reveals Lu Xun's true stance, namely, that he had not completely forgotten all about his own knowledge of orthography and pronunciation, but rather that Lu Xun was expressing his appreciation for Zhang's early years as a revolutionary in a rhetorically complex, indirect fashion. And this appreciation, originating as it did from his own long-held idea that literature "could transform human nature and refashion society," was truly of a piece with the practices of helping youth learn and writing good cultural criticism, practices that characterized the May Fourth movement as a whole. From all this we can see that the path Lu Xun chooses to follow as his own self awareness develops is one in which conscientious appreciation predicates self-fashioning.

Perhaps out of respect for his teacher, Lu Xun was always silent regarding Zhang Binglin's participation in the "pot toss" and other incidents. Though he later made some criticisms, such as when he said Zhang had grown from being a "able man pulling the cart from the front" to one "holding the cart back," in his latest writing on the matter he said, "These are no more than minor blemishes on a fine jade, not a case of a man losing his value in old age." Lu Xun thus illustrates a nostalgic fondness for his aging teacher. Distinguishing himself as just the opposite of his brother, once Zhou Zuoren had gained a major reputation in the literary field, he criticized Zhang Binglin several times for his old teacher's "backwardness." Zhou once wrote, "I have the utmost respect for Master Taiyan's great learning, more even than I can say, but I think he is better-suited to lecturing advanced students and scholars than he is to lecturing before the public, otherwise it would be easy for him to become the firebrand for a reactionary, conservative movement, even if that were not his intent." Such public criticism is not unreasonable, couched as it was in the framework of "I love my teacher, but I love the truth even more." However, the criticism also allows us to fix what moral and intellectual weight Zhou gave to his teacher Zhang Binglin at the time.

In August, 1928, Zhou Zuoren wrote his essay, "Goodbye to My First Teacher" in which he announces a complete break with his Zhang Binglin. He says in the essay,
Master now seems to have taken over forty years advocating for renaissance in China and tossed it from his mind completely. I believe that my teacher should not have done so; having done so, he is my teacher no longer. Master once wrote an essay called, "Goodbye to My First Teacher" to separate himself from Master Yu Ququan 俞曲园 [Yu Yue]. Unfortunately I must now say goodbye to my Master, though I certainly never expected that matters would come to this. From this point forward, whatever writings Master may issue have no relationship to me whatsoever. I have only these parting words, and I dare say they bring my previous pledge of allegiance to an end: Master has grown old, and his future days are numbered, so I just hope that he may improve himself to protect his good name.
These "parting words" are certainly painful to hear. In Zhou's eyes, Zhang Binglin has long gone from model revolutionary to counter-revolutionary, which is a source of pain for all of Zhang's former students. In truth, Zhang's retreat to conservatism really had been a source of consternation for many leaders of the new culture movement who had counted themselves as his students, but in issuing such a withering public criticism, Zhou's stance was most shocking. Even Lu Xun, himself previously called "too arrogant," did not come close to this. Zhou's motives for imitating his own teacher's "Goodbye to My Teacher" thus deserves a closer look.

Just as Zhou Zuoren criticizes Zhang Binglin in "Goodbye to My First Teacher," so Zhang Binglin had previously criticized his own teacher Yu Yue, albeit the substance of Zhang's critique was completely different. Zhang's "Goodbye to My First Teacher" was in large part based on the different positions teacher and student had taken on the Manchu Qing government. In "Goodbye to My First Teacher," Zhang's main goal had been to cast doubt on his teacher's support to the Manchu Qing government; certainly he never meant to throw him into the path of the Juggernaught of revolution. Zhou's essay on the other hand, begins by defending his teacher's reputation in an apologetic tone but then moves on in a very self-righteous fashion to compare Zhang's strong "revolutionary position" before the establishment of the Republic in 1911 with his "madness and idiocy" and his "retreat" after 1911. Significantly, Lu Xun later wrote in a 1933 letter to a good friend that "The path of my old teacher is surely too reverential, and I feel quite opposed to it. I think Master has become confused. I do not wish to judge him, but it is as if he has ended up in the wrong, though he committed no crime. Still, I could never seize the moment to throw the stone, as this would only save myself and encourage his enemies." Lu Xun wrote this passage a full seven years after Zhou Zuoren's essay appeared. We cannot say for certain whether he was responding directly to Zhou here, but what is certain is that Lu Xun's opinion tallies exactly with that of Zhou's. In any case, compared to the respectful silence Lu Xun kept at the time, Zhou's essay "Goodbye to My First Teacher" shows that Zhou was more able to "cast stones" at the "backward" older generation. With this indignant and irreverent stance, stamping underfoot his Master Taiyan, Zhou establishes such banner values as "progress" and "righteousness" (zhengyi), values which represent the establishment of his own self-awareness.

In 1923, Zhou Zuoren severed over forty years of brotherhood with a letter; his 1926 essay "Goodbye to My First Teacher" does much the same with Zhang Binglin. Could there be some relation between these two incidents? Let's begin by considering the falling-out with his brother. Even though this has been the subject of all types of investigation by many previous researchers, the great majority have been unable to go beyond guessing what Hata Nabuku may have said to alienate or even slander Lu Xun. Too frequently, these investigations fail to see how big a factor was Zhou's own individual subjectivity. It is the opinion of this author that the falling-out of the two brothers cannot be explained simply as a result of ill-will created by Hata's dissatisfaction with the way Lu Xun handled expenses, that somehow Hata's 'slanders' made Zhou Zuren cut Lu Xun off in matters of "ethics" (lunli). A more likely scenario is that the falling-out actually owes more to moral and ethical differences that Zhou Zuoren himself actively manifested.

As we have seen above, Lu Xun was more than a brother to Zhou Zuoren; practically speaking he fulfilled the role of "teacher" as well. During the decades when the two brothers were growing up, and continuing into the May Fourth period, when they were most often called "the Zhou brothers" or "the two Zhous" among the literary establishment, Zhou Zuoren had always been in the more passive, dependent position. Whether one speaks of daily living or intellectual development, Zhou had routinely accepted Lu Xun's direction, Lu Xun's managment. Zhou's independent self-awareness was certainly repressed, to the point that it was underdeveloped. In more ways than one, Lu Xun's combined roles of "father" and "teacher" actually obstructed the development of Zhou's self-awareness. According to Hegel, rational self-awareness can only confirm its own existence when it throws off an object (this "object" demonstrates the independent life of the self). Only in the self of an Other, perhaps, can a self obtain satisfaction. Lu Xun may have become that Other self for Zhou Zuoren. Practically speaking, at the same time that Zhou Zuoren and Lu Xun ended their relationship as brothers, they also ended a teacher and student relationship of more than 20 years. All the attacks on Lu Xun after that falling out, including the anger that went into them, not only express Zhou's own acknowledgement that the break-up originated in himself, further, it shows his continued belief that the break-up was the right thing to do. Whether we think of it in terms of two brothers ending their relationship or the conclusion of a teacher-student relationship, the final result of the falling-out indicates that Lu Xun's authority as either father or teacher has collapsed before Zhou Zuoren's self-awareness.

In the 1930s, Zhou Zuoren composed two essays critical of contemporary Chinese humanists. These bring up the following:
If they are artists of that school which uses literature to convey the Way (yi wen zai dao), then when they try to instruct us, the masses, about our responsibility, taking on the responsibility of prophets, then before we humbly accept their artistry, we must first carefully inspect their lives. If their deeds do not tally against their words, then they are false prophets and we must guard carefully against their trickery.

We must treat humanists (wenren) according to two methods. If they are the sort who practice art for arts sake, then for them to be upstanding persons who nevertheless make dissipating compositions, this is no problem at all, and if they are upstanding yet have something dissipating about their person, this too is no cause for concern. But when we come to those who make it their business to instruct us, to take authority over us, we must first first inspect their deeds and words. If there is some problem here, then the Emperor will have turned out to have no clothes [note, lit, "their paste-paper caps can't possibly come together correctly"].
When Zhou speaks here of "prophesying wise men" and "authority figures" whose "deeds" may not align with morality, and whose deeds and words may not be of the same standard, there is no doubt that the main target of his criticism is Lu Xun. From this we can see that the ethical and moral qualities have actually become the sharpest blades with which Zhou Zuoren cuts himself adrift from Lu Xun's authority.

If the above analysis is at all realistic, then we may well read in "Goodbye to My First Teacher" another instance of Zhou's impulse to distance himself from "authority." One concrete result of this impulse was that, whether it be from the time that Zhou became disillusioned with Lu Xun's ethics, or when he began to attack Lu Xun with charges of immorality, or when he gave his judgment on the backwardness of Zhang Binglin's life and work, Zhou was ethically and emotionally purging his horizons completely of these two mentors from the older generation. At the same time that Zhou distanced himself from their authoritative positions, he was also "releasing" the self-awareness that had been so long repressed.

Section 4

By refusing to conform to the older generation in reasoning or in feeling, Zhou Zuoren forced his own, independent sense of self to develop. At the same time, once his formerly repressed sense of self was "released," in both philosophical and cultural matters he took up positions that were distanced, or even directly opposed, to Lu Xun. It is possible that confirming his advocacy for the "self" by judging Lu Xun then almost became his central concern for decades after. Particularly representative of this is his difference from Lu Xun's position within the New Culture movement. After May Fourth, Lu Xun had continued to support the enlightenment ideal that literature must be written "for the sake of human life" (wei ren sheng). Zhou on the other hand gradually came to embrace an "individualist" position that took "to speak as the goal." Eventually Zhou would come to advocate "speaking your mind" (yan zhi) literature to oppose Republican literature, revolutionary literature, Leftist literature, and any other forms that he judged to "convey the Way." Whether he intended it so or not, in literary advocacy, the increased opposition between the two scholars is clear. Especially when it came to his views on the xiaopin essay and "innate sensibility" (xingling), Zhou not only frequently opposed Lu Xun in the strongest critical views, striking against each one in turn.

By 1933, thanks to the work of Zhou Zuoren, Lin Yutang and others, the xiaopin essay enjoyed a great resurgence, and writing in the modes of "innate sensibility" or "leisure" (xianshi) enjoyed wide currency on the literary scene. In August of that year, Lu Xun wrote the essay "The Crisis of Xiaopin" which compared the xiaopin essay form to "home furnishings" (xiao baishe). Lu Xun emphasized that the existence of xiaopin rested not on "refinement" or "innate sensibility," but rather on "struggle and warfare." In July of 1934, near the end of his preface "On Purchasing the Great Compendium of Orthography and Pronunciation Studies," he points out, "Naturally, this work does not provide any of the pleasures of 'innate sensibility,' but if we were to use this work to understand a bit more the history of what is today known as 'innate sensibility,' then so much the better." In December 1935, Lu Xun gave a short history of the xiaopin form in his essay "Casual Talks on Xiaopin." In it he points out the complicated evolution of the term "innate sensibility," commenting in the end, "Today, for just one yuan or a few jiao, anyone can see the ancestors of modern man. We see, too, the 'innate sensibility' of olden times, and how it is piled up beds and shelves and such. Also the 'innate sensibility' of today, which people study just as if they were chewing old beef bones..." To be sure, Lu Xun here criticizes a characteristic of the literary establishment, and not any particular person. Zhou Zuoren, however, responds to very specific individuals. His essay of June, 1936, "Home Furnishings of Ten Bamboo Studio," satirizes the large compilation made by Lu Xun and Zheng Zhenduo, Letter Papers of Ten Bamboo Studio (Shi zhu zhi jian pu), as nothing more than "home furnishings." Zhou remonstrates the pair saying, "The offences of the masters of Ten Bamboo Studio surely exceed those of today's xiaopin authors." Zhou thus strikes back at Lu Xun's critical term "home furnishings" for xiaopin and also haughtily criticizes Lu Xun and others as rank materialists. Writing in February 1936 in a piece called "On Poetry and Prose," Zhou says,
The saying 'when poetry is lost the country will follow soon after' is certainly a wise and telling one. Gongan and Jinling were certainly not similar schools, but they argued together; they had the styles of two intertwined masters, to the extent that who said what to provoke the other is now of little importance. Zhu Zhucha [Zhu Yizun 朱彝尊, 1629-1709] was certainly a man of no mean talents, so why should we allow this to confuse us? It can't be simply because "innate sensibility" and other terms are easy targets. Li Yueman called his own tastes and prejudices sharp, yet he still was generous. Chinese literati are by nature neither right nor wrong, but may overturn or critique just as they please. In any case, they are not horrified to lack refinement. Zhu was no exception. Later on in history, the talented Yuan brothers would advocate "innate sensibility" and encounter great criticism as well. Just how learned the opposing party was, nobody even remembers anymore. Today, "innate sensibility" has been criticized three times; this, however may have to no relation to its actual deficits as a notion...
Of great interest here is that the number of times that Zhou counts "innate sensibility" being criticized in history is the very same number that Lu Xun uses when he himself criticizes "innate sensibility." Also, although Zhou seems on the surface to be criticizing Zhu Yizun as a scholar of mean ability, at the same time proclaiming that the aspersions cast on "innate sensibility" had nothing to do with Zhu's skills, we can read between the lines to find Zhu striking back at Lu Xun's criticism of "innate sensibility," "leisure" and other similar terms. These terms are in fact mostly derived from Zhou's own "On the Origins of Chinese New Literature" and other related critical works, al of which advocated a central thesis summed up in the phrases, "trust both wrist and mouth, let them become the measure" and "speak your will" (yan zhi). These theses were precisely what Zhou had gradually developed in opposition to the "for the sake of human life" position (what he also referred to as the "conveying the Way" position). They are theses raised in direct opposition to Lu Xun's positions. Thus, Zhou's move to preserve the nature of "innate sensibility" and to strike back at anti-"innate sensibility" criticism can actually be seen as important gestures to signify Zhou's establishment of his own literary and cultural ideals, and one sign that his self-awareness had matured.Things do not stop there. Utterly opposing Lu Xun's support for leftwing alliances, with the attendant focus on struggle, Zhou Zuoren came more and more to stress the "reclusive loftiness" aspect of "reading behind closed doors." Soon enough he would become one of the major leaders of liberal humanism in China in the 1930s. Regarding Lu Xun's work at the time, Zhou wrote in a letter to Jiang Shaoyuan 江绍原 (1898-1983), "...Observing the 'words and deeds' of Master Cai [Yuanpei?] these past few years, I have had a deep feeling of what they call 'in later life it is not easy to preserve oneself.' And now that the "Duke of Lu" has been promoted to leader of the proletariat, and as I've heard has recently issued a collection of his own love letters, it seems he has all but lost his reason entirely..." Clearly, Zhou took a dim view of Lu Xun's participation with the left and with the publication of Letters from Two Places (Liang di shu). This passage is particularly meaningful, and we may note two things: first, that Zhou uses "reason" as his standard when he chastises Lu Xun for "losing his reason." This once again illustrates his own self-confidence regarding the path he has chosen and the positions he is taking. Second, this new-found confidence in his own reason is yet another sign that Zhou's self-awareness has matured. However, these frequent attacks on Lu Xun cannot be separated from emotional elements.

Perhaps what limited Zhou's intellectual progress more than anything else after the break with Lu Xun was his constant and intense focus on "individualism" and "reclusive loftiness." Starting from when he first published with New Youth, Zhou Zuoren for a time went by the pen-name Zhong Mi. Later in life he explained the name, saying, "The character 'Zhou' is glossed in the ancient dictionary Shuo wen jie zi as 'mi' ("secret"). In speech I want to remain secret. 'Zhong' of course means 'second son.' So Zhong Mi meant nothing more than that I had the surname Zhou and came second in line." The pen-name Zhong Mi thus means "Number Two" in the house of Zhou. One can't think of "Number Two," however, without thinking of "Number One," Zhou Shuren (Lu Xun). By infusing his position in the family hierarchy in his own pen-name, we can see that Zhou Zuoren at that time acknowledges his place among "the Zhou brothers" or "the two Zhous." In actuality, "Number One," Zhou Shuren, shines right through the pen-name Zhong Mi, clearly demonstrating that he will not be ignored. But after 1923, Zhou Zuoren completely abandoned the pen-name Zhong Mi, as if to express some intentional retreat from some fraternal or hierarchical connotation of the pen-name. After Lu Xun's death, Zhou Zuoren still publicly maintained this distance; his stubborn stance sometimes reached levels that puzzled people. According to the memoirs of Liu Yu, on the day that Lu Xun died, Zhou Zuoren said just before he dismissed his class, "Lu Xun is dead. I will return home to visit his widow." Chang Feng, in his own memoirs, tells how Zhou Zuoren once called his own mother "Lu Xun's mother," which quite surprised Chang Feng. Chang thought it very strange. But when we page through The Diary of Zhou Zuoren (Zhou Zuoren ri ji), we find that without exception Zhou Zuoren always refers to his mother as "mother," and never "Lu Xun's mother." This difference between the public and private ways of referring to his family members expresses in some way the stubborn distance that Zhou Zuoren kept from Lu Xun, as well as his own subjective independence from Lu Xun. But this distance born of stubbornness, while almost laughable, serves even more to make us certain of the wide gulf of misunderstanding and emotional distress that divided the two brothers. At the same time, we unfortunately meet with the difficulty faced by a Zhou Zuoren who placed so much value on "reason:" after Zhou Zuoren had invoked "reason" to judge and attack Lu Xun so emotionally, how could there not be even more deeply "emotional" roots to this conflict? Having been so close with Lu Xun for so long, how did he justify the non-emotional elements (like the ethical resentment, or the chastisement on intellectual grounds)?

From this perspective, it is apparent that Zhou Zuoren's falling-out and subsequent permanent opposition to Lu Xun was the result of more than simply a family disputes or philosophical differences. Rather, Zhou's opposition contains within in it the entire course of development of Zhou's self-awareness; it is the release of a long-repressed psychological need to resist. In all of the ways that he afterward opposed Lu Xun, we doubtlessly encounter a kind of substitution that arises within his own self-awareness, which also shows how he, "obedient since childhood," in the course of his own self-fashioning developed a stance that opposed his own previous self. By adopting this oppositional stance, Zhou Zuoren not only bypassed the elements that could potentially have repressed him during the course of the establishment of his own self-awareness, going even further, within the distance created by his own stubborness, all of the areas where he had the potential to be different appeared, such as his rebuttal of "authority" in both moral and ethical terms.

We have no way to confirm directly whether the falling-out with his brother was for Zhou Zuoren a deliberate and planned strategy for self-fashioning. But in the cultural field of post-May Fourth Movement China, that Zhou Zuoren took such an oppositional stance certainly gave him a distinctive position in opposition to the "authority" rhetoric of Lu Xun and others. By raising his own flags, Zhou obtains more symbolic capital in the modern Chinese cultural field. At the same time, whether it was deliberate or not, Zhou's method of self-fashioning which establishes distinct positions and narratives from Lu Xun's in so doing also develops two completely separate paths of thinking that were already inherent in the so-called "commonality" of the May Fourth generation. "New Culture" intellectuals who would appropriate these different forms of self-fashioning and these separate paths of thinking would form the diverse structure of modern Chinese cultural philosophy.

Translator's Notes

tongyixing [cf. Worrying About China, pp. 194-196]
On Zhang Binglin's name, which is also Taiyan, see Zhang Binglin the book.
See the MCLC article on Lu Xun's marriage for more context


Friday, August 21, 2009

The Admonitions Scroll

I made some scans of The First Masterpiece of Chinese Painting: The Admonitions Scroll to use in my lectures. These are so great:

Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫, Mind Landscape of Xie Youyu 謝幼輿丘壑圖

Full-length lectures, translations, and all new reading responses soon to come.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Yang Zhengrun. A Modern Poetics of Biography. Nanjing, China: Nanjing University Press, May 2009.

Strikingly similar in scope and goals to A Theory of Auto/biography, only much larger, I take both these works as important nodes in the early development of an independent field of biography in China. What's so interesting about this sort of book is the effort to compare Western and Chinese biographical writing across the centuries. There's a completist attitude here, as if by thinking through "Western" writing as a whole in relation to "Chinese," there will no doubt be a way to develop "better" biographical writing in China.

Of course, this all in Chinese, so I'm reading it somewhat slowly. Here are my notes so far from the long introduction.


"Biographical writing has now become one of the most important forms of literature in the whole field of culture 文化范畴." Yang hopes Chinese thinkers can develop a complete theory of biography 一套完整的传记理论. The whole point of this endeavor would be so that Chinese writers can write biographies that are as "good" as those in the west.

Biography is an ancient form in the west, central to the Torah, the dialogues Plato and other ancient texts. China also has a biographical tradition going back at least to the Springs and Autumns of Master Yan 宴子春秋. In Sima Qian there is also an answer for the great ancient biographer Plutarch and the father of autobiography, Augustine, but for Yang, this tradition is obviously ever-afterward stunted in comparison to the development of biography in the West.

During the 18th century, biography reached the point where it could recount not only heroes, but the lives of members of the middle classes, a significant achievement seen across the Western world in works by Samuel Johnson (Lives of the Poets), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Confessions), Goethe and Benjamin Franklin. As the 19th century merged into the 20th, other great works like Freud's biography of Leonardo da Vinci, as well the works of Lytton Strachey, André Mauroir, and Irving Stone appeared -- in these works, basic tensions in the human psyche were analyzed to a high degree.

In China, by contrast, nothing like a "modern biography" appeared until the final end of "feudalist society" with the collapse of the Qing dynasty. Pioneering thinkers like Zhu Dongrun and Hu Shi put out some admirable work, as did autobiographers Guo Moruo, Shen Congwen and Ba Jin. The Communist years interfered with this development, but still, by century's end, a diverse body of biographical literature.

Hu Shi and Zhu Dongrun had been correct to call biography the most backward of all literary fields in the 1920s, because at that time there was no canon of great biographies, and there were no full book-length biographies to speak of. This is because the art of biography is a doubly difficult one: one deal with so many historical materials and work to maintain accuracy, while at the same time using creative and psychologically-based methods to capture the personality 个性 of the biographical subject. Doing this better in future should be the goal of any comparative theory of biography.

It's not as if Western criticism, developed as it is, is very old. When James Clifford developed an anthology of biographical criticism from between 1560 and 1960, he found disappointingly little material. From the 18th century to the 20th, Samuel Johnson's notes in his journals The Rambler and The Idler were some of the few works people turned to over and over again.

Beginning in the 1920s, a generation of biographers turned proto-critics laid out the major issues of biographical theory. "Although they were not theorists themselves, they began to address theoretical issues of biography." Virginia Woolf, author of three excellent biographies herself, started off the discussion within her Bloomsbury School, which was enamored of the "new biographies" that tried harder to capture the personalities of their subjects using psychological methods, eschewing the old style of simply piling materials together to produce huge and boring tomes. André Maurois came next, writing over 14 influential biographies before becoming the first celebrity theorist. He lectured on biography issues at Cambridge and the University of Kansas. His book Aspects of Biography advances the theory of the double difficulty of drawing out the personality of the biographical subject while maintaining historical accuracy. Third on the list of practitioner-critics who laid the foundations of theoretical questions is Leon Edel, who particularly worked to develop issues of biographical psychology 传记心里学, such as the proper use of psychoanalysis 精神分析 in biography, the emotion in biographies 传记的移情, and the relationship between the biographer and his subject.

Post-Edel, biographical criticism has blossomed in a hundred directions, with several major theorists developing autobiography as a separate field. Biography also has begun to imbricate significantly with the study of fiction. All of these branches are worthy of the Chinese thinker's attention, for as Zhu Dongrun told us in a 1980 article,
Although biography from China has been developing for some time now, to seek progress in literature, we must not fail to seek help from outside of China. Learning is created by all of mankind together, so when the road becomes blocked, to seek some enlightenment, some help from the development of foreign literature is certainly no shame to us Chinese, so being embarrassed about it is of absolutely no use.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lejeune 2

From a French webpage written by Lejeune

Philippe Lejeune divides his essay "The Autobiographical Pact" into four section, but I just noticed that the central one is certainly the second section, which takes up nearly half of this essay. This section, called "I, the Undersigned," is a series of analyses and larger reflections that generally illustrate how to distinguish autobiography from fiction, as well as what is at stake in the effort to make this distinction.

Lejeune's discussion of the different kinds of texts in which the first person "I" is applied by the narrator brings up some problems that are difficult to settle -- for example, when somebody says "I was born..." doesn't the "I" in that sentence function ambiguously to refer to both the baby, the subject of the sentence, and the speaker of the sentence? Lejeune guesses there could conceivably be a problem of communication in situations when the subject of the sentence and the speaker are presumed to be the same but not really the same.

After discussing this awhile, Lejeune concludes that to identify the speaker of "I" in written texts, we need to know this narrator's name. If the narrator's name is the name of the author, then this is autobiographical writing, or what Lejeune calls "personal writing."

Somewhere in the text -- the cover page, say -- there is some proper name associated with the author. Somewhere else in the text -- near the beginning, say -- there is some name associated with the narrator. If these two names are the same, we have an autobiography. This is the "autobiographical pact." On the French webpage mentioned above, we have:
Qu'est-ce que le pacte autobiographique ?

...Enfin très souvent le pacte autobiographique entraîne l'identité de nom entre l'auteur dont le nom est sur la couverture, et le narrateur-personnage qui raconte son histoire dans le texte.

Of course, I don't like the look of that "Enfin très souvent" very much. If this identification only happens most of the time, then some of the time you might not have it and yet still have yourself an autobiography. More to come, my brain can only take so much at once...

On the other hand, if the narrator's name is not the author's name, then we may have autobiographical fiction on our hands, or else just plain old fiction. But certainly not autobiographical writing. (Unless an exception to this rule also occurs. Mon dieu!)

After reading this section, it is hard to say whether this is a simple point, or a profound one. Consider three reflections that Lejeune supplies at the end of this section:
Autobiography is a literary genre which, by its very content, best marks the confusion of author and person, confusion on which is founded the whole practice and problematic of Western literature since the end of the eighteenth century.

If there is no one outside of language, since language is other people, we would have to arrive at the idea that autobiographical discourse, far from referring, as each person imagines it, to the "I" minted in a series of proper names, would be, on the contrary, an alienated discourse, a mythological voice by which we would all be controlled.

When we try, then, to distinguish fiction from autobiography, to determine what it is that the "I" refers to in personal accounts, there is no need to go back to an impossible world-beyond-the-text; the text itself offers this last word at the very end, the proper name of the author, which is both textual and unquestionably referential.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Theory and Curriculum: 2 charts and a passage

A busy day of translating and reading Chinese literature for my curriculum ended with anxiety as I broach once again the famous essay "The Autobiographical Pact" by Phillip Lejeune. My theory chops are far too soggy to pick up much from a first inspection, but I will leave this entry as a bookmark to come back to this piece again.

Lejeune's chart solving the problem of grammatical problems of person in autobiography

Lejeune's chart combining the proper name of the author with that of the protagonist of the work.

We notice already here what is going to fundamentally oppose biography and autobiography: it is the hierarchichal organization of the relationships of resemblance and identity. In biography, it is resemblance that must ground identity; in autobiography, it is identity that grounds resemblance. Identity is the real starting point of autobiography; resemblance, the impossible horizon of biography.


Monday, August 10, 2009

In the Library

Self Portrait by Ellen Carey, 1986

After working in the morning on my Fulbright personal statement, I spent a bit of time polishing up the assignments portion of my syllabus. Still to schedule: a lecture on art and a class day at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Later, I spent the afternoon at Wilson doing a bit of inspectional reading.

Fuchs, Miriam, and Craig Howes, editors. Teaching Life Writing Texts. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008.

This volume is a dense package of allusions to material I need to catch up on; use it mostly as a bibliographical guide, with occasional insights that require some chewing over. Karpinsky, for example observes students "investing in" the autobiographical pact in the course of the class. This happens when they see Jacques Pepin go from estranged to delighted at his childhood circumstances (p. 288), but just how this happens is far from clear -- before criticizing further I will go back to Lejeune.

Fong, Grace S. "Writing Self and Writing Lives: Shen Shanbao's (1808-1862) Gendered Auto/biographical Practices." NAN NÜ: Men, Women and Gender in Early and Imperial China 2.2 (2000): 259-303

Opening of Shen Shanbao's collection Hongxuelou shixuan chuji (1836)

Grace Fong briefly quotes Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, theorists who feature prominently in Teaching Life Writing Texts, to justify a project that finds a kind of shadow autobiography written in and around poems in the collections of one particularly brilliant Hangzhou lady. I'm afraid Fong's article is too massive and comes with an argument that is a bit too subtle for my undergraduate class, but it does give me an idea of what I will assign in the class. I will do either one or two (probably one) sessions on the various biographies of the Hangzhou ladies, and their male patrons, and some poetry will make it onto the reading list. I'll have to simplify Fong's somewhat subtle point that autobiography and writing oneself into a group of women are key features of Shen Shanbao's poetry collection.

Fong, Grace. "Inscribing a Sense of Self in Mother's Family: Hong Liangji's (1746-1809) Memoir and Poetry of Remembrance." Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR), Vol. 27, (Dec., 2005), pp. 33-58.

Hong Liangji 洪亮吉

Fong reports, "To varying degrees, Hong's sense of self is conveyed most strongly through memories of his contacts and interactions with particular individuals in the framework of family and community." It strikes me that Hong resembles both Tao Qian and Shen Fu in this respect, and may serve as a bridge between my lectures on these two figures.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The organizing principle of my course...

Writing Lives in China: An Outline of 42 Lectures

This does not look like it should have been a lot of work, and I suppose in truth it was not, but I am finding it particularly difficult to generate my lectures. So distressing! At least now I think I finally understand how I want to organize the course: by types of people involved.

Unit I China Before the Ming: Exemplary Lives
Unit II The Ming and the Qing Dynasties: The First High Tide of Life Writing
Unit III The Twentieth Century: New Women, New Men, and a New Nation

Unit I China Before the Ming: Exemplary Lives

Lectures 1-3: Kings

Lectures 4-7: Confucians

Lectures 8-10: Recluses [Sub-topic to begin: Immortals and Eccentrics]

Lecture 11: The Daoist Confessional

Lectures 12-15: Exemplary Women (3 Good, 1 Depraved)

Unit II The Ming and the Qing Dynasties: The First High Tide of Life Writing

Lectures 16-18: Monks and Nuns

Lectures 18-20: Men of the Ming, I (Wu Yubi, Hu Zhi, Li Zhi, Xu Wei)

Lectures 21-23: Men of the Ming, II (Return to Dragon Mountain)

Lectures 24-25: The Courtesan

Lectures 26: Peasant Women

Lecture 27-29: The Lady

Unit III The Twentieth Century: New Women, New Men, and a New Nation

Lectures 30-31: The Revolutionary (Liang Qichao, Qiu Jin)

Lectures 32-35: The Students (Yu Dafu, Hu Shi, Lu Xun; Shen Congwen, Lao She; Bai Wei, Su Xuelin)

Lectures 36-40: Yang Jiang, A Modern Voice


Monday, August 3, 2009

Fulbright Proposal

edit 8/3/2009

I revised this proposal Monday morning and sent it off to my university's Fulbright adviser with a couple of questions. I regret putting off most work on this until August, but apparently I am still stuck in the world of putting off annoying jobs until the what I consider is the last possible moment...

Jesse Field
Fulbright Proposal: Draft 3


This study will explore the tremendous significance of autobiography to the contemporary Chinese literary scene. I investigate the works of one major autobiographer, Yang Jiang, in detail, showing how her long career as an established literary figure helped make her highly crafted memories of China’s tumultuous 20th century exempt from censure, accepted in Chinese school curriculums, and major bestsellers. A full analysis of the rhetoric and the reception of this still under-studied type of writing reveals the true social and political power of Chinese literature today.

First Image in Yang Jiang's Google today


It is a little-known fact that one of the most popular and influential literary forms in the Chinese-speaking world is autobiography. Professor Zhao Baisheng, a major Chinese theorist of autobiography, has decried the neglect of autobiography common among Chinese academics. Recently, several new studies in Chinese and in English have begun to correct this neglect by attending to the emergence of modern vernacular autobiography in China in the period between World War I and World War II, an event of incredible significance for all Chinese writers, especially for women writers, who are traditionally under-represented in Chinese literature. In what ways do women writers continue to dominate autobiographies in China? How do China’s most popular and enduring autobiographies gain their readerships? In what ways do the subjects of these autobiographies become role models disseminated in schools and in popular media, and how much power do these subjects have as cultural icons? To begin answering these questions, I have selected Yang Jiang (1911-) as a case study embedded in a much more general course of readings.

Yang Jiang is a noted female literary figure whose career as a memoirist is only the latest phase in a long life of teaching, playwriting, translating and literary scholarship; it is also a phase that coincides exactly with the great changes in China in the thirty years since the end of the Cultural Revolution. In 1972, during the Cultural Revolution,Yang Jiang and her husband, the novelist and literary critic Qian Zhongshu, lived in a remote rural work unit called a 'cadre school;' both faced the possibility of living out their old age planting turnips and cleaning toilets. But by 1978, in the first phase of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, both were reinstated as full members of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). Reestablished in Beijing as she approached her seventies, Yang Jiang’s literary output flourished, first with the publication of her Don Quixote translation (1978), followed closely by her autobiographical essay collection Six Chapters of My Life in a Cadre School (1981). In 1989, she produced Baptism, a semi-autobiographical novel describing life for intellectuals during the early Mao era (1949-1951). In the 1990s, though she continued to produce critical essays and reminiscences, it seemed that the family had entered retirement. Their daughter, Qian Yuan, passed away in 1997, and Qian Zhongshu died in 1998. But in 2003, Yang Jiang published a new work called We Three detailing the life of the family in a unique, fragmented format combining autobiographical essay and experimental fiction. This book sold millions of copies by the end of 2003; on the internet, blogs and reviews began to cite Yang Jiang as an example of the ideal humanistic life. Still relentlessly active in her artistic and historical vision, then 96-year-old Yang Jiang found time to publish a new essay collection in 2007, Walking on the Margins of Life: Questions and Answers of Myself; this too was an immediate bestseller, with her Taiwan publisher ranking it as number 23 on their list of bestselling books of 2008.

I hypothesize that Yang Jiang has come to symbolize one kind of ideal Chinese intellectual. Her negotiation of marriage and parenthood on the one hand and work and professional life on the other essentially solve the central tension in the lives of working women, thus making her a role model for women readers. Her advanced age has given her a special elder status in Chinese literature. Chinese readers look to elder writers generally as role models in a broad, complex way that many Western readers have failed to notice. This respect for elder writers is even more pronounced among contemporary readers of the particular generation of intellectuals that took up active public roles between 1919 and 1949, now seen as a golden age of new literary and artistic forms. As a member of this generation, Yang Jiang thus represents a broad set of elder role models for today’s Chinese readers.

My investigation will take advantage of three crucial resources in Beijing. First, local academics can talk to me about Yang Jiang’s past roles at Tsinghua University and at CASS. Second, Yang Jiang’s publishers can supply crucial information about Yang Jiang’s current and past sales, and how extensively her work has been used in Chinese classrooms. Lastly, Yang Jiang herself has directed students to the Tsinghua University archives for evidence to support her autobiographical testimony. I will pursue such disputed questions as her husband’s employment during WWII and the case of her son-in-law’s suicide during the Cultural Revolution, always keeping in mind that the tone and form of the historical evidence yields as much about the issues at hand as the facts themselves. One final potential resource is Yang Jiang herself, who is still alive and working. Wu Xuezhao, author of the 2008 book Listening to Yang Jiang Talk About the Past, has graciously offered to act as an intermediary on my behalf.

Wu Xueshao's name on a manuscript submission form I found...weird, huh?

My base for these investigations will be the Institute of World Literature at Peking University, where I will work with Professor Zhao Baisheng. Professor Zhao is a founding member of the International Auto/biography Association, where he regularly works to foster exchange between scholars of biographical literature from all over the world.

Zhao Baisheng -- more to come if I get over to Peking University

He’s also the author A Theory of Auto/biography (2003), one of the first Chinese-language works describing biographical literature (or “auto/biography”) as a field of literature that deserves to be an object of study in its own right. He has graciously agreed to allow me to participate lectures and roundtable discussions that will help familiarize me with Chinese literary scholars. I will spend the first month of my program establishing contacts (e.g. students who research Yang Jiang under Professor Zhao’s direction). In the second month, I will mine the Qinghua archive to build my own database of documents that can corroborate, deny or otherwise inform historical questions left open in Yang Jiang’s memoirs. In the remaining months, I will revisit the archive as needed and continue to interview Yang Jiang’s readers and publishers to build a picture of how a single established autobiographer’s work can have influence in university settings, be on secondary school curriculum guides, and even make the author a popular culture icon.

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