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“The Becoming Self-Conscious of Zawen”: Literary Modernity and Politics of Language in Lu Xun’s Essay Production during His Transitional Period

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While Lu Xun’s early works of fiction have long established his literary reputation, this article focuses on the form and content of his zawen essays written several years later, from 1925 to 1927. Examining the zawen from Huagai ji, Huagai ji xubian (sequel), and Eryi ji (Nothing more), the author views these as “transitional” essays which demonstrate an emergent self-consciousness in Lu Xun’s writing. Through close reading of a selection of these essays, the author considers the ways in which they point toward a state of crisis for Lu Xun, as well as a means of tackling his sense of passivity and “petty matters.” This crisis-state ultimately yields a new literary form unique to the era, a form which represents a crucial source of Chinese modernity. From sheer impossibility and a “negating spirit” emerges a new and life-affirming possibility of literary experience.


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