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The Ancient Wellspring and the Source of the Future: The Creation of New Poetry and the New Man in Lu Xun’s On the Power of Mara Poetry

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Focusing on literary tradition and innovation, this paper examines Lu Xun’s poetics as represented in his early treatise On the Power of Mara Poetry (Moluo shi li shuo). As a leading writer and thinker deeply engaged in the dramatic social and cultural transformations taking place in early twentiethcentury China, Lu Xun was very concerned about how to build up the New Man and new society via new literature. Advocating Maratic poets who are full of the spirit of revolt and nonconformity, Lu Xun endeavored to disturb and reinvigorate Chinese minds by bringing in foreign dynamics and energies based upon modern individualism and humanism. At the same time, Lu Xun insisted that, while moving toward a bright future, people should constantly consider China’s prosperous past. For Lu Xun, tradition was still of great relevance in creating and nurturing new poetry, new men, and a new society. To simply lump Lu Xun together with pure anti-traditionalists is problematic. Lu Xun is commonly seen as an iconoclastic pioneer in modern China; however, I argue that Lu Xun demonstrated a dialectical reflection on the relationship between tradition and modernity. Actually, Lu Xun envisioned a process by which, galvanized by imported Maratic spirit, selected cultural legacies would undergo modern reconfiguration and revitalization.


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