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25. One Hundred Years of New Literature Movement: World Literature, Chinese Literature, and May Fourth Legacy

Thu, March 16, 7:30 to 9:30pm, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, 2nd Floor, Dominion Ballroom North

Session Submission Type: Roundtable Session


A hundred years have passed since Hu Shi published his famous proposal for a literary reform in 1917, a symbolic event of the New Literature Movement which envisioned and established a new paradigm of Chinese writing. While much ink has been spilt on this movement, the discourses of world literature have challenged any analytical approach that focuses on a singular national literary tradition, emphasizing the long-standing phenomenon of world literature. However, can the case of New Literature Movement serve as an example that sheds light on the contemporary debates on Chinese literary studies such as the contending relation between world and national literatures, the implicit connection between literary and language reforms, and the continuous dialogue between Sinophone studies and Chinese literature? These are the questions that this roundtable aims to explore.

The five discussants propose to evaluate as well as articulate the relevance of this early twentieth-century movement in our twenty-first-century world. Chih-ping Chou opens the discussion by historicizing the studies of Hu Shi in order to reassess his contribution to the New Literature Movement. Josephine Chiu-Duke relates the May Fourth’s liberal tradition to the recent development of Chinese literature by focusing on the works of Chen Guanzhong. Gang Zhou examines Hu Shi’s discourses on the vernacular as a means to shed light on the current debate on world literature. Chien-hsin Tsai expands the analytical scope of Sinophone studies by revealing the significance of various post-May Fourth literary movements both in colonial Taiwan and 1930s Shanghai. Carlos Yu-Kai Lin highlights the connection between late Qing’s language reform and May Fourth’s literary movement by investigating the changing idea of world language. Among the aims of this roundtable is to open up new avenues of research on the May Fourth legacy.

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