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East-West Dialogues: The Transferability of Concepts in the Humanities

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Edited By Christoph Bode, Michael O'Sullivan, Lukas Schepp and Eli Park Sorensen

This is an edited collection of essays drawn from collaborative events organized jointly by The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. The book focuses on how literary and cultural perspectives from different humanities academic environs in Asia and Europe might contribute to our understanding of the "transferability of concepts." Exploring ways in which these traditions may enter into new and productive collaborations, the book presents readings of a wide range of Western and Eastern writers, including Shakespeare, J.M. Coetzee, Yu Dafu. The book contains a virtual round table followed by four thematic sections – "Travels and Storytelling," "Translation and Transferability," "Historical Contexts and Transferability," and "Aesthetic Contexts and Transferability."

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Chapter 6: Yu Dafu’s Imagination of the Romantic South: David Lo

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David Lo

Yu Dafu’s Imagination of the Romantic South

Yu Dafu’s understudied “Moving South” (南遷) in the short story collection Sinking (沉淪) in its very title highlights the important role of space, which, however, surprisingly escapes critics’ attention.1 A striking feature of the short story is the abundant quotations from Western literature, particularly Mignon’s famous song from Goethe’s Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, yet the connection between these Western borrowings and the role of the south in the story has not been enough expounded. Yu Dafu’s allusions to Western literature are not a superfluous display of his cultural knowledge but integral to the theme of the story. Yu Dafu in “Moving South” in fact juxtaposes Western Romantic melancholy associated with southern Europe and Chinese Romantic melancholy stemming from the patriotic poet Qu Yuan’s The Songs of the South. By bringing together these two traditions of the Romantic south, Yu Dafu blends his personal pathos with his nationalistic anguish about the impotence of China. The invocation of the south showcases how space can instigate affect and embed individual emotions in larger historical imagination. Yu Dafu’s strong identification with southern sentiments moreover represents a submerged tradition in the political and revolutionary agenda of the May Fourth Movement.

Yu Dafu was a born southerner. In the very literal sense, Yu was born in 1896 in Fuyan in Hangzhou, a southeast district located in the area traditionally known as Jiangnan, namely the South of the Yangtze, whose picturesque landscape is frequently...

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