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The avant-garde elements in the May Fourth New Literature Movement

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

The May Fourth “new literature” appeared in the early twentieth century China while the avant-garde was sweeping over the West. Both could be defined as radical literary movements by such characteristics as storming criticism of politics, subversive standpoints on traditional culture, language experiments for thoroughly novel forms and criticism with the aestheticism for l’art pour l’art (art for art’s sake). The avant-garde elements in the new literature, by contrast, are believed able to help us see two kinds of shifts in the course of twentiethcentury literature, that is, to see how it shifted from classical to modern literature in the last century: one change was the natural flow of the mainstream literature, subject to the social development and changes, and the other is an avant-garde movement that took a radical stance against the status quo, and was led by ideals of social reforms aiming to realize beyond the generation.


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