In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the earliest of the modern Chinese revolutionaries were looking beyond the creation of a new polity to the creation of a new kind of person and new ways of living together. At a moment when the political legacy of the Chinese Revolution rarely fails to confound and disappoint, there is clarity and hope to be found in this legacy. The thinkers whose work is discussed here took it upon themselves to rethink China’s past and future place in the world. The revolutionary spirit that they nurtured comes down to us not in the form of answers but questions no less relevant today: the conditions of possibility of liberation, the relationship between individual and collective consciousness, and how to cope with failure.
Early Modern Thought and the Chinese Revolution
Wang Xiaoming is founding professor at the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Shanghai University and is also affiliated with East China Normal University in Shanghai, where he trained a generation of critical intellectuals. He has published a major study of Lu Xun—The Cold Face of Reality: A Biography of Lu Xun (Wufa zhimiande rensheng: Lu Xun zhuang)—and has written extensively on contemporary literature, Chinese urbanism, and intellectual history. He recently edited and published a two-volume anthology of pre- 1949 writing from the long history of the Chinese Revolution.
Lennet Daigle is a translator and PhD student in literature at UC Santa Cruz. His previous graduate work was at Shanghai International Studies University, where he wrote a thesis on the translation of poststructuralist theory. His forthcoming dissertation, “Ethical Exemplarity and Historical Hermeneutics in the Early PRC,” is a study of Chinese historical fiction and its connection to the intellectual origins of the Cultural Revolution. He lives in Munich with his partner and son.
Wang Xiaoming, Lennet Daigle; Early Modern Thought and the Chinese Revolution. boundary 2 1 May 2019; 46 (2): 93–120. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-7497025
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