By Jane Qian Liu
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 28, no.2 (Fall 2016), pp. 43-89
Chinese fictional works in the early twentieth century differed remarkably from their late imperial predecessors in linguistic styles, narrative modes, and expressive modes. This transformation, sometimes referred to as the “modernization of Chinese fiction,” is often attributed to foreign influences and the reconstruction of Chinese literary tradition. The idea of “foreign influence,” which lies at the center of many scholarly enquiries, however, is a holistic concept fraught with problems. This essay proposes a new analytical framework—namely, dynamic intertextuality—to dissect the process of influence. This framework is a useful and effective one for discussing crosscultural literary contacts, such as that between China and foreign countries at the turn of the twentieth century.
The author uses the framework to examine in particular the fictional works of Su Manshu, a writer who played a pivotal role in the romantic thread of modern Chinese literature but who is often overlooked by scholars. By exploring Su’s active engagements with foreign works and pre-existing Chinese lyrical modes, this essay delineates the making of a “transcultural lyricism” in Su’s fiction. Su Manshu found a unique approach to merging foreign literary texts with pre-existing Chinese lyrical modes as a means of creating a special type of emotional expression that transcends cultural boundaries.