Wang Hui's essay explaining “Toward a Refutation of Malevolent Voices,” Lu Xun's dense 1908 meditation on the cultural dilemmas China could no longer put off facing, is the first work to offer a comprehensive reading of this important text. Discussing the treatise in deep historical context, Wang begins by addressing the convoluted archaic language that Lu Xun chose for his writing, demonstrating that this choice represented the writer's protest against the calcification that he saw as having come to characterize all registers of Chinese written expression—the ordinary classical used for most writing as well as the vernacular—by the end of the nineteenth century. While the turn to the vernacular has generally been seen as the sine qua non of the expansion of popular knowledge in modern China, Wang Hui finds Lu Xun arguing that any abandonment of deeply rooted indigenous linguistic form would result in China merely pursuing an elite-driven rationality at the expense of allowing it to develop its own particular subjective agency.

Wang Hui also takes on perhaps the most controversial aspect of Lu Xun's essay—the defense of popular “superstition” against the attempts to suppress it by what he referred to as the “hypocritical gentry.” In Wang's analysis, Lu Xun's notion of “superstition” emerges as the fount of popular imagination, the only real bulwark against an emerging scientism that was essentially but the latest means of social control and that threatened to make impossible any alternatives to an agenda of “modernity” driven exclusively by Western models.

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