Poetics, Politics, and Ursprung/yuan:
On Lu Xun’s Conception of “Mara Poetry”

By Pu Wang

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 23, no. 2 (Fall 2011), pp. 34- 63

In this essay, Wang rereads Lu Xun’s “On the Power of Mara Poetry” as one of the poetico-political origins of China’s “short twentieth century,” and aims to reveal the connections of the young Lu Xun’s visions with some universal themes of literary and revolutionary modernity. Firstly, Wang situates Lu Xun’s conception of Mara poetry in the intellectual politics of the decade that led to the 1911 Revolution. Then, Interpreting Lu Xun’s invocation of Nietzsche’s idea of Ursprung, the paper argues that Lu Xun’s key poetic ideas (e.g. “the voice of the heart”) raise the issue of poetry as a question of “origin” for radical politics, and also presuppose a literary modernity in which the old and the new, the internal and the foreign, the diachronic and the synchronic, and the national revolution and civilizational revival are interconnected in the condensed “present.” Moreover, the paper examines the young Lu Xun’s appropriation of Byronic Romanticism side by side with European Romanticism and its influences. In Lu Xun’s ideal of “Mara Poetry,” the vitalism of “genius” becomes identical with the political dynamism of revolution. Proposing the immediate correspondence between the individual self and the political collective, Lu Xun interfuses absolute individualism and absolute nationalism and even surpasses both. Therefore, Lu Xun’s appropriation of Romanticism politicizes “Mara poetry” as an “unfolding structure” of Ursprung/yuan. In this sense the young Lu Xun’s work exemplifies the politics of “origin” underlying the revolutionary tradition of modern China.