What’s the Link between the Lyrical and Modernity in China?
A Discussion on Chinese lyrical Modernity
‘Chinese lyrical modernity’ is an important concept that David Der-wei Wang has put forth in his writing and which follows on his famous theory of ‘repressed modernities in late Qing fiction.’ The way Wang approaches the concept and builds his argument can be traced directly to the work of Chen Shixiang, Kao Yu-kung and others who were well known in the United States and Taiwan for their studies on the lyrical tradition in Chinese classical literature. At the same time, Wang’s theory tackles the same questions that were raised by Prusek, Hsia Chih-tsing, Leo Ou-fan Lee and others on the lyrical and the epic. Wang sought to reconstruct the ‘structure of feeling’ in modern Chinese culture, by merging the notion of a ‘late-Qing modernity’ with the age-old ‘Chinese lyrical tradition’. In doing so, Wang leads us into the inner workings of Chinese thoughts and feelings, where these thoughts and feelings can be seen as the observations made by Chinese scholars outside China on the current prevailing trends in research, such as ‘multi-culturalism’ and ‘post-theories’, as well as cultural studies in the West in general. Although Wang inevitably faced a series of challenges and ran the risk of falling into various traps when using the Western concept of ‘the lyric’ to narrate the ‘lyrical tradition’ in classical Chinese literature, or when employing the antithesis between ‘the lyrical’ and ‘the epic’ to study modern Chinese history, his concept of ‘Chinese lyrical modernity’ has its own unique values and makes a significant contribution to the field.