Great Expectations: Self, Form, and the
First Modern Chinese Poem

By Paul Manfredi

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 13, no. 2, pp.1-29

This paper explores the predicament of the lyrical subject in modern Chinese poetry. The predicament arises, I argue, from the implicit conflict between the need to establish a novel lyrical presence in the self-consciously new genre of modern poetry and the poets’ role as reformer in a young republic, requiring a kind of utilitarian approach to poetic composition that intends to bring good to the nation as well as the genre. By focusing on the “beginning” of modern poetry, I hope to draw attention to the complicated and often fraught nature of the task of developing a new poetics in early twentieth-century China. My analysis centers on both the poetry and poetic criticism of Hu Shi, Guo Moruo, Zhu Ziqing and others as well as its publishing medium, i.e., literary journals of the time.