Modern Chinese literature is always already in the transculturation of non-Chinese concepts and discourses. My quibble with the current state of the field, however, has to do with the way we respond to the consequences of the transcultural traffic. While we assume a position of (moralist, political, or intellectual) sincerity, we tend to stop short of grappling with the “authenticity and viability” of our own theoretical frameworks regarding the subjects under critique. It has become a commonplace to criticize the uneven development of discursive agency in Chinese literary and cultural studies, with Western theory taking precedence over Chinese subjects (and subjectivities). But one cannot help noting that some of the most critical voices are themselves empowered by, or even sustaining, the Western canon they set out to subvert. Overcoming such a dilemma does not require us to retroactively claim either cultural essentialism or political historicism. Rather, we should seek to reengage theory, enacting “the mobility of ideas across time and space, which draws attention to the ways in which contexts both transform and are transformed by its movement.” I argue that the “mobility” of theory presumably inherent in the current theoretical paradigm has not taken us far enough in exploring new terrain. In this article, I propose that we triangulate the paradigm of modern Chinese literary and cultural studies, by bringing premodern Chinese literary thought to bear on theoretical engagement on the one hand and textual studies on the other.

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