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Classics and National Cultures$
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Susan A. Stephens and Phiroze Vasunia

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212989

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212989.001.0001

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Contestatory Classics in 1920s China

Contestatory Classics in 1920s China

(p.258) 13 Contestatory Classics in 1920s China
Classics and National Cultures

Haun Saussy

Oxford University Press

In China, enthusiasm for the Greek and Roman classical tradition was strongest among a group of intellectuals gathered around the journal Xueheng (The Critical Review, 1922–33). The meaning of the classics for them lay in potential resistance to the identification of modernity with Westernization and technological progress, which formed the common narrative and grounded the cultural policies of both Republican China and its leftist opposition. For the Xueheng group, the classics offered a norm to be opposed to the unlimited fulfilment of desires promised by commercial and technological discourses of modernity—a fulfilment which they saw exemplified in the carnage of the First World War. Since the 1980s, changing political and cultural conditions have allowed for the rediscovery of the Xueheng group: their distrust of progress and absolutism has been read by many as an anticipated diagnosis of the Maoist project.

Keywords:   China, classontesicism, May Fourth Movement, Hu Shi, Babbitt, critique of modernity

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