R Rapin & T Rymer, Monsieur Rapin’s Reflections on Aristotle’s Treatise of Poesie… Made English by Mr Rymer, by whom is added some Reflections on English Poets. London, 1694, p. A3.
J Dryden, ‘The Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy’, The Works of John Dryden, A. Roper & V. A. Dearing (eds), vol. 13, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1987, p. 234.
Frontispiece to The tragedies of the last age consider’d and examin’d by the practice of the ancients and by the common sense of all ages […] by Thomas Rymer, Esq. London, 1678. For copyright reasons, this image could not be reproduced. Please contact the author at the following email:
firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy of the image.
T Rymer, A Short View of Tragedy, London, 1693, p. 84.
In fact it was reproduced in the early nineteen-century, with its satiric force heightened. In the nineteenth-century version, Rymer is grimacing. This is the period when Macaulay would call Rymer ‘the worst critic who ever lived.’ Mr Spectator famously described his mandate as follows: to bring “Philosophy out of Closets and Libraries, Schools and Colleges, to dwell in Clubs and Assemblies, at Tea-Tables and in Coffee-Houses.” J Addison, Selections from the Tatler and the Spectator, Penguin Classics, London, 1988, p. 210.
Frontispiece to The Spectator, London, 1788. For copyright reasons, this image could not be reproduced. Please contact the author at the following email: email@example.com to request a copy of the image.
ibid., pp. 206, 207.
136 Three Centuries before the Cultural Turn ibid., p. 206.
J Addison et.al., The Spectator, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1965, vol. 3, p. 387.
Lawrence Klein has documented this shift in Shaftesbury and the Culture of Politeness: Moral Discourse and Cultural Politics in Early EighteenthCentury England, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994.
Bibliography Addison, J., Selections from the Tattler and the Spectator. Penguin Classics, London, 1988.
–––, The Spectator. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1965.
Adorno, T., ‘How to Look at Television’. The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture. J. M. Bernstein (ed.), Routledge, London, 1991, p.
Dryden, J., ‘The Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy’. The Works of John Dryden. A. Roper & V. A. Dearing (eds), vol. 13, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1987.
Habermas, J., The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. MIT University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1962.
Jameson, F., ‘Postmodernism and the Consumer Society’. The Cultural Turn:
Selected Writings on the Postmodern. 1983-1998.Verso, London, 1998, p. 1.
Klein, L., Shaftesbury and the Culture of Politeness: Moral Discourse and Cultural Politics in Early Eighteenth-Century England. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994.
Rapin, R. & Rymer, T., Monsieur Rapin’s Reflections on Aristotle’s Treatise of Poesie. Made English by Mr Rymer, by whom is added some Reflections on English Poets. H. Herringman, London, 1694.
Rose, M., Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1991.
Rymer, T., A Short View of Tragedy. London, 1693.
The Last Epic Storyteller and Fictional Rewriting in the People’s Republic of China Kenny K. K. Ng Abstract My paper deals with the multiple roles of Li Jieren born in 1891 and died in 1962 as a novelist, public servant, and cultural elite in Sichuan-Chengdu during the intense political turmoil in 1950s Communist China. It explores the dilemma in the author’s literary and political life when both the writer and his historical works were under political stress. Li wrote his massive fictional trilogy to serve as testimonies to the monumental historical transformations of native Sichuan societies China’s Republican Revolution in 1911. Under political changes in 1950s Communist China, Li had to drastically rewrite his trilogy. I seek to draw a broader picture of Li’s private and public lives to examine the author’s tactics of alignment with the changing institutions and frustrated attempts in maintaining creative security in the process of rewriting. How did Li’s public persona (as Chengdu’s ViceMayor) intervene into his creative horizons in fiction writing when he devoted himself to administering his beloved city and inscribing cultural memories of the native city in novel writing The paper highlights the phenomenon of ‘rewriting,’ when the writer reworked on his own texts under changing historical circumstances, as an important ‘cultural practice’ in the early PRC period.
Key Words: Li Jieren, historical fiction, revolutionary fiction, epic, roman fleuve.
***** Much of the intellectual history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has documented intellectuals’ anguish and oppression under Maoism.What I am going to present is the untold story of Li Jieren born in 1891 and died in 1962, who weathered the political storms in the locality of his Chengdu hometown in the late 1950s. His literary career underwent toil and tribulation in rewriting his massive fictional trilogy on the Republican revolution in 1911. My study aims to probe the interdependence of a writer’s biographical life and creative oeuvres, and look into the predicament of a historical novelist enmeshed in the human and political interrelationships in the concrete historical world. This essay studies the conflicting intellectual identities of a socially - and politically-engaged writer, the cultural politics of rewriting and re-figuring history in the service of nationhood, and the 138 The Last Epic Storyteller cognitive and artistic imperatives of the act of historical-cum-fictional writing that could enhance the writer to speak against the odds of the time.
Li played multiple and important roles as a writer, public official, and local cultural elite in post-1949 Chengdu society, and his public and political activities were intertwined with his creative fiction rewriting. From July 1950 to December 1962 he was holding leading official position as Chengdu’s Vice-Mayor in charge of culture, education, and urban building.
The double commitments of being a government official or spokesman and an engage writer constituted Li’s double life, an ‘old-fashioned’ intellectual who was anxious to reorient himself to the ‘New Society.’ A liberal intellectual and famous local elite with widespread social networks and influence in the Sichuan-Chengdu communities, Li (who remained a nonCCP member) was persuaded by the CCP to take up the position of ViceMayor. In the early 1950s he committed himself to practical municipal affairs, participating in rebuilding the city of Chengdu. A significant writer of ‘native soil’ (xiangtu) literature, Li would surely want to turn his literary energies devoted to his home city to concrete social transformation and urban renovation under the socialist scheme.
Since the anti-Rightist movement, unfortunately, Li ran into deep trouble by getting himself in the controversies on Liushahe’s poems with reference to literary expressions and the control of cultural bureaucracy. It was after the political event that one finds the writer withdrawn from public life and recommitting himself to rewriting the third massive novel, The Great Wave, which he could not finish until his death in 1962. On June 1, 1957, a journalist of Chengdu Daily came to interview Li at his residence, and asked for his view on Liushahe’s ‘Pieces on Plants.’ Li pointed out the poet’s ‘singing of objects’ (yong wu) was nothing short of Chinese poetic practice, and Liushahe’s poems should be put in such a tradition. Saying that Liushahe’s poetic work was still immature, Li commented that the young generation of poets was talented but lacking social experience and artistic training. One should nurture and protect the young talents, but not pass a harsh judgment on them. Yet Li cautioned the young writers that they must consider seriously the social ‘effect’ of their writing once it was published.
In the interview, Li was opposed to any indictments of Liushahe that seemed to exaggerate the social impact of his poems. He was bold to say that the political campaigns against such a minor literary piece by a young writer verged on ‘making too much fuss over trifle’ (xiaoti dazuo). Li situated the poems within the longstanding tradition of political commentary of Chinese poetry, and citing in particular the famous first song Guan ju in the Classic of Poetry (Shijing). As is well known, the exegetical tradition has invested the first classical poem with moralizing and politicising meanings in response to the social and political realms. Li’s poetic remark can be seen as playing a risky double-entendre, meaning that, one should grant autonomy to creative Kenny K.K. Ng expressions and do away with crude allegorisation to instruct literary activity;
and more importantly, he might want to make oblique critique of the cultural bureaucrats who set up the political turmoil by imbuing the poetic utterance with ideological meaning.
Li would not know that the rectification campaign had rather fuelled his discontent on party bureaucracy and the stringent control on literary expressions. To be detached from the hullabaloo as much as he attempted, he was dragged into the event unawares as an involuntary but important participant. In a speech in a Party meeting, as reported in Sichuan Daily on June 4, 1957, Li called on the members to end the current ‘violent’ (cubao) attacks on Liushahe, and instead to aim at the growing bureaucratisation problem of the literary institution. The outspoken remarks he delivered in the next official meeting really got him into hot water. On August 29, Li thus had to make a speech of self-criticism before top party officials in the People’s Congress meeting in Chengdu. Li obliquely referred to the unpleasant situation in which he was just one step away from falling into the camp of ‘rightists.’ In the speech reported in Chengdu Daily on August 30, 1957, he criticized himself as an intellectual from the ‘old society,’ bearing the mentalities of capitalist and bourgeois ideology, Confucian thought, and eighteenth-century European liberalism. He found fault in his deep-seated arrogance and social detachment from the rapidly changing ‘new society,’ which stemmed from nothing but the ‘inferiority complex’ of an old-style intellectual and the unconventionality and indifference of a pompous ‘scholar’ (mingshi) who stood aloof from the ‘progressive’ society. Li was attributing his acrimonious relationships with the cultural cadres and dissatisfaction with authoritarian party literary policy to the ‘backwardness’ of his feelings and thought of a declining-class intellectual. He wished he could have thrown away the knapsack of old mentalities, but he confessed that the invisible old bag still weighted upon him. In the coming year, Li would continue to vilify his former liberal views and bourgeois background in the press until the spring of 1958.
The oppressive nitty-gritty of literary politics lays the ground for us to look into Li’s literary creativity, in particular the writer’s endeavours to rework on the trilogy of the Republican revolution. Li embarked on the rewrite against the changing and uncertain political circumstances from the early phase of cultural liberalizations to vehement ideological restrictions on literature. Why had the writer to take on the daunting task of rewriting the revolutionary fiction Mainland scholars have claimed that the writer was pressured to reformulate the narratives to conform to the Marxist-Leninist teleology and the tenets of class struggle and revolutionary rhetoric. Had the author painfully undergone his ‘intellectual conversion’ to remodel his work in alliance with Party doctrines Or, in view of an anti-Communist perspective, writers like Li had been ‘deluded’ by Communist promises and 140 The Last Epic Storyteller yet they ‘did not awaken from their dogmatic slumber’2 after going through the trial of the political campaigns Was he a frustrated writer, defeated by a bitter sense of remorse, and so had to resort to the new creative venture to upgrade his status quo in the eyes of the Party These views would only emphasize the overpowering state apparatus exerting ideological control over the creative mind, or strip the will and self-assertion of writers, rendering them as the ‘cog and screw’ of the revolutionary machinery steered by the Party.3 No question writers in this context were not autonomous agents capable of writing out the paradoxes of textuality. Nor should we regard them as passive receivers to reproduce the codes of national building and history making sanctioned by communist theoreticians. It is only by fleshing out the precarious relationship between literature and politics, writing and action, can we ponder the representational crisis in historical fiction as Li’s case has powerfully demonstrated.
By considering politics and the predicament of authorship within the realm of novelistic representation, I hope to stress the extraordinary commitment of the author to writing with a political hegemony in mind. It is therefore productive to turn away from ideological reductionism to look into the formal questions concerning the expressive capacities and constraints of the historical novel in changing political contexts. I wish to point out Li’s continual fascination with a format of ‘epical’ narration in the fashion of the roman-fleuve (literally, the grand ‘river-novel’), a loosely-defined genre featuring sprawling, slow narratives, wayward plots, and a sweeping canvas against which the development of a society in transitional crisis are chronicled, and a gallery of ordinary, fictive characters portrayed alongside real and historical figures. Earlier in 1937, Guo Moruo commented on the early trilogy:
The scope of the work is surprisingly monumental, and the flavour of different periods and their relationship to one another, of local customs, the social life of people of different social strata, their psychology and language is presented in a thoughtful and natural way.In his 1930s correspondences to his editor friend, the writer had already expressed his goal to model after the panoramic novels of the French masters Balzac, Zola, or Dumas. He intended his novels to be composed and read individually or in series. His plan sounded much more ambitious than he had achieved. He would commit himself to writing multi-volume novels in the same vein to document Chengdu’s ‘changes in social life and institutions, as well as the evolution of social mentalities’ from the late nineteenth century up to the present time in which he lived (that is, the author’s life span).