Is There a May Fourth? A Reply to Wang Xiaoming

By Michel Hockx

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 11, no. 2, pp.40-52

This rejoinder to Wang Xiaoming’s “A Journal and a ‘Society’: On the ‘May Fourth’ Literary Tradition” discusses the four characteristics of the ‘May Fourth’ literary tradition identified in Wang’s article. Hockx argues that Wang’s reassessment of the ‘May Fourth’ legacy does not change conventional views of the development of modern Chinese literature, but only changes the positive evaluation of certain trends into a negative one. Hockx believes that a more fundamental rewriting of this part of literary history is necessary and possible, if one places new literature in the context of other types of literature prevalent at the time, discards attempts to construct mainstreams, and pays more attention to so-called marginal genres. Hockx ends by saying that the variety of literary products of the 1910s and 1920s cannot possibly be covered by the restrictive label ‘May Fourth.’