The “Symbol of Angst” and the Poetics of Remembrance:
Lu Xun and Chinese Literary Modernity

By Wenjin Cui

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 28, no.2  (Fall 2016), pp. 139-82

This essay examines a crucial aspect of Lu Xun’s literary thought—namely, his understanding of the relationship between literature and reality. Bringing together a number of reflections on literature Lu Xun made at different moments of his life, including his translation of the concept of the “symbol of angst” and his creation of the image of the grave, the author demonstrates how Lu Xun formulated a notion of literature that conceives of writing not as the symbolic representation of truth, but as the correlative depiction of transitional existence. It argues that Lu Xun’s conception of literature, informed by a strong sense of the lived moment of the historical present, is essentially a modernist attempt to revitalize the Chinese aesthetic tradition’s correlative articulation of the world, for which his encounter with the ontological “spirit” of the West provides a crucial stimulation.