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Lu Xun’s View of the Awakening of the Chinese People—Was There Really an “Epistemological Break”?

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It has been argued that, starting in the late 1920s, Lu Xun’s intellectual development underwent a significant transformation constituting what the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser has termed an “epistemological break.” Some of the explicitly more positive comments about the masses that Lu Xun made in his later years have been used to demonstrate this point. However, the existence of such a “break” is still debatable, and a detailed examination of Lu Xun’s apparently optimistic comments reveals that Lu Xun possessed a more sophisticated understanding of the masses and the Chinese people. His understanding was informed by the concept of “national character.” This paper attempts to demonstrate the consistency of Lu Xun’s view of the masses and the Chinese people and to resolve an apparent self-contradiction in Lu Xun’s arguments.


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