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Wing-Kwong Wong

Title:  Dao-Nong-Cun-Qu—the Idea of Village in Early Twentieth Century Chinese Literature


This project seeks to investigate how the division of city/village (cheng/xiang) had come into place in modern China and become the common expression to express different imagination of social transformation. The attempt is to look at the “re-birth” of “village” and how it opens up other possibilities of temporalized and spatialized imagination of social transformation1. In this investigation, I want to expand my imagined map a little to some other Asian countries, or East Asia, because the geographical imagination of Asia, between Asia is also connected to the division of city/village. I started to think about the question because in our context the city/village divide, or say the sentiment around this city/village divide, always constitute the expression we articulate our politics. In Taiwan, the xiang-tu(rural-earthy) literature movement in the 70s, New Cinema in the 80s, and also the language in party politics…etc. However, to understand this sentiment, or to use Raymond Williams’ word “structure of feeling”, I need to go back to when and where the idea of division came into place and explore its trajectory. In the Country and the City, Raymond Williams asks why the idea of rural life is so persistent in English experience.  In unpacking the idea Williams is in a way writing the social history of rural England.  As he is dealing with the powerful myth of the rural past versus the regressive modern Industrialization through a historical perspective, he tries to give back to the social experience, which finds its physical embodiment in the country and city, its own term. 

His attempt is to capture these lived social “experiences in solution”, which were seeking expression through certain available literary forms in the residual, dominant, and emergent formation. In this project, I will first focus on the writings on the rural and the folklore in the May 4th period and the literature and criticism around them in China in the early twentieth century.  I will also look at the literature in German Romanticism and Russian Realism, which has great influence on the modern Chinese literature. I will be looking at how certain ideas, literary forms, and images passed and altered and also how they were used to capture certain social experience. Therefore, to work on the Chinese translations of these works will also be important. The rich literature on the idea of village in the work of Gandhi and Tagore, and other contemporary scholarship, will be an important referential point to look at the idea of village in modern Chinese literature. 

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