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Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Front. Lit. Stud. China    2014, Vol. 8 Issue (2) : 302-330     DOI: 10.3868/s010-003-014-0015-7
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Political Modernity and Its Musical Dissociation: A Study of Guomin and Geming in Liang Qichao’s Historical Biographies
Jean Tsui()
Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
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After the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), leading late Qing intellectuals such as Liang Qichao introduced modern political concepts in a highly affective fashion, making the passionate interest in and adoption of western-imported political concepts a hallmark of Chinese modernity. What are these highly personalized affective experiences like? What have given rise to them? How can the study of these experiences broaden our understanding of modernity, and myriad modernizing experiences, in China and other similar cultural contexts? More importantly, how can the use of affect and emotion as analytical categories offer us better insights into some of the most radical intellectual and political transformations that have taken place in China? To answer these questions, perhaps we need to look elsewhere than the semantic content of language. This article focuses on the incipient moments of this affective trend in late Qing China and studies the formation of discursive “text” as the production of sensational “object.” It examines musical and visual appeals Liang Qichao generated for two recently translated political concepts, “national citizen” (guomin) and “revolution” (geming), in historical biographies published in New Citizen Journal in 1902. By exemplifying that Liang’s semantic text was intended to be circulated as an audio text and pictorial text, and that modern concepts had been received as literary as well as auditory and visual experiences, I argue that Chinese modernity often teeters in a state of aesthetic ambivalence. It is displaced and suspended from discursive meanings of the constructed discourse resulting from cross cultural exchanges and consolidated by power relations on both the local and the international levels.

Keywords emotion      affect      late Qing translation      Liang Qichao      modernity      music      and revolution     
Issue Date: 04 July 2014
 Cite this article:   
Jean Tsui. Political Modernity and Its Musical Dissociation: A Study of Guomin and Geming in Liang Qichao’s Historical Biographies[J]. Front. Lit. Stud. China, 2014, 8(2): 302-330.
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