The Figuration of a Sublime Origin:
Guo Moruo’s Qu Yuan

By Yi Zheng

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 16, no. 1 (Spring 2004), pp. 152-198

The essay is a study of the transfiguration of the Romantic sublime as a modern aesthetic ideal constructed in the dramatic works and literary vision of the modern Chinese poet Guo Moruo (1892–1978). It inquires into Guo’s contrary tendencies for the aesthetics of the sublime and the beautiful in his figuration of Qu Yuan as the “great” and “original Chinese poet. In particular, the essay focuses on “The Ode to the Orange” and “The Thunderstorm Eulogy” in his historical/poetic drama Qu Yuan to explore the cultural implications of his transformation of a sublime aesthetics in figuring a poetics of the “times” and a “new” Chinese epic culture hero. It argues Guo Moruo and his fellow New Culturalists’ traversal elsewhere—their espousal and transfiguration of an aesthetic movement of unlimitation against the terrors of modernity—is a sublime construction of a different literary agency. In this way Guo’s aspirations and dilemmas in translating and refiguring a sublime poetics for a different society, as well as himself as the ‘new’ poet, epitomize that of the modern Chinese intellectuals in their attempt to translate and reinvent, out of pain and anxiety, a cultural modernity into being..