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(Re)imagined communities : the spectrum of world literature and the spectre of national iterature

By 黃彥彤 and Yin-tung Wong

Abstract

The nation, as Benedict Anderson famously argues, is an “imagined community.” My thesis examines Anderson’s “imagined communities” in relation to the concept of nation, national literature and world literature in the age of global modernity. My study suggests that the concept of “imagined communities” still remains highly relevant in the contemporary context. The nation, and the seemingly outmoded “national literature,” still have their phantom presences in the twenty-first century in spite of the growing globalisation and the increased interconnectedness among literatures. This thesis locates two points of departure within the spectrum of world literature—the philological and the allegorical mode of world literature—which find themselves well placed in the two chapters. This study is thematically linked by the portrayal of the Mongolians in both historical and contemporary texts written by Chinese and Europeans. It seeks to answer an important theoretical question: which mode do we need more of in the twenty-first century? I argue that while the two modes both play an important role in keeping the text in circulation and inspiring different readings and adaptations, the philological mode is the more preferred mode of opening up alternative readings and writings in this globalised era. Chapter One investigates the philological mode of world literature and takes Erich Auerbach’s “Philology and Weltliteratur” as its theoretical point of departure. With regard to Auerbach’s conception of philology, this chapter delves into the transhistorical and transcultural trajectory of Ji Junxiang’s The Orphan of the House of Zhao from the Yuan Dynasty, the first Chinese play introduced into Europe. It focuses on the adaptations by Voltaire and Arthur Murphy in particular as the theatrical intertextuality of the two adaptations reveals the then increasingly conflicting Anglo-French relationship. More importantly, the debate that Voltaire and Murphy have over their authorship of the play largely reflects their search or denial of Aristotelian ideals and reveals how national literature primarily concerns itself with the question of authenticity. This chapter reviews Voltaire’s and Murphy’s discussion of how to improve upon the play, and suggests how such a conversation contributes to a twenty-first-century adaptation of Ji’s play—Chen Kaige’s movie, Sacrifice (2010). Chapter Two examines the allegorical mode of world literature. The discussion is explicitly based upon Fredric Jameson’s “Third-World literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism” (1986)—in which Jameson maps a dichotomised globalism and nationalism onto the binary oppositions of the first and third world. This chapter investigates Jiang Rong’s semi-autobiographical novel, Lang Tu Teng (2004). The text—as an allegory—submits itself to multiple readings: to the Chinese reader, Jiang’s book usually appears to be a national allegory that puts forward calls of national rejuvenation; to the reader of the translated versions, however, it is very often read without the nation and the national consciousness. While Jiang’s book is widely circulated around the globe and enables different interpretations of the text due to its lack of a stable referent, these readings, nevertheless, do not interact with one another but compartmentalise a symbol into multiple self-referential discourse.published_or_final_versionEnglishMasterMaster of Philosoph

Publisher: 'The University of Hong Kong Libraries'
Year: 2015
DOI identifier: 10.5353/th_b5731067.
OAI identifier: oai:hub.hku.hk:10722/237929
Provided by: HKU Scholars Hub
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