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From Literary Aestheticism to Cultural ethics: On Tragic insight of Wang Guo-wei
Wang Guo-wei, tragedy, visual modernity
|Issue Date:||2018-02-06 16:30:03 (UTC+8)|
This essay re-evaluates the literary aestheticism and cultural ethics of Wang Guo-wei before 1911 in terms of his tragic vision. Living through the end stage of the Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China, Wang Guo-wei’s outlook on life is regarded as tragic. But he seeks for transcendence against the turbulent social changes through re-reading traditional literature, and thus creates his own insight on tragedy. Wang performs many literary activities before 1911, which include commentaries on novels, poetry and Chinese opera scripts. The arguments and progression of his works will be fully discussed in this article. Wang sees the spirits of liberation in Dream of Red Mansions, points out the sublime created by conscious pain and suffering in Commentary on Songs of Ren-Jian, and finally in Opera history of Song and Yuan dynasty he celebrates the ethical values inherent in the tragic figures in action. As a result of his aesthetic response to modern age, his tragic insight opens a new realm of literary criticism. However, the aesthetic and philosophical exploration will be left unsustainable and his personal liberation unsatisfied if without the help of ethical or religious beliefs. Wang then turns to lyrics writing, the elliptical text and poetic metaphor leading to a new artistic realm of merging the East and the West in Commentary on Songs of Ren-Jian. As literature is after all not the equivalent of life, he seeks for resolution and makes another move from lyrics to Chinese opera studies, of which Wang as a pioneer proves his visual modernity and completes the development of his “tragic insight.” The trajectory from literary aestheticism to tragic ethics throughout the three phases of development also fashions him as an intelligentsia who brings to life the “three cardinal guides and the six disciplines” of the ancient China.
|Appears in Collections:||[Bulletin of the Department of Chinese Literature National Chengchi University] Journal Articles|
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