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The Will to Allegory and the Origin of Chinese Modernism: Rereading Lu Xun’s Ah Q—The Real Story

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Through a formal analysis of this seminar work of Lu Xun, the author observes that the narrative and dramatic motivation of Ah Q—The Real Story is an intense yet futile search for a proper name and identity within a system of naming and identity-formation as the system, by default, repels the identity-seeking and “homecoming” effort of the sign in question (“Ah Q”). Based on this observation, the author goes on to argue that the origin of Chinese modernism lies in a highly political awareness of one’s loss of cultural belonging and thus one’s collective alienation from the matrix of tradition and indeed existence. Departing from conventional reading of this work, often anchored in sociopolitical interpretations of class, nation, and group psychology centered on the “critique of national characteristics” discourse, this article maintains that the true ambition and literary energy of Lu Xun’s masterpiece can only be fully grasped when one confronts this epic cultural-political struggle to regain a cultural system’s power and legitimation to name one’s own existence and define one’s own value.


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