Readers and scholars alike might wonder why Chinese Literature Today (a magazine still in its formative stage) would choose for its fourth issue to feature not a scholar of Chinese literature, but rather a Chinese scholar of comparative literature. Yue Daiyun 乐黛云 is one of the most respected literary scholars of her generation and has been instrumental in bringing comparative literature to the fore of Chinese literary studies. Her prolific writing is influential among scholars, writers, and general readers, earning her a reputation far beyond academic circles. With a career spanning sixty years and training in both Chinese and Western literary traditions, Yue Daiyun is that rare scholar who has the literary expertise and theoretical grounding to place Chinese literature on the map of world literature.
Sharing her views on the state of the field via an interview and an essay, Yue Daiyun broadens the scope of comparative literature toward a possible map of future East-West literary relations, what she posits as a new third stage of the global development of the field led by Chinese cross-cultural scholars. The expanded scope of Chinese literary research as envisioned by Yue is no longer confined by language, locality, time, or ethnicity, but is instead informed by a common body of literature with shared motifs and humanistic concerns though each culture has distinct ways of expressing them. Given Yue’s influential legacy on generations of younger scholars, this broadened framework will certainly have an impact on how we contextualize and present Chinese literature in the era of globalization.
Yue Daiyun attaches great social and moral importance to literature and literary studies. The chief function of comparative literature, according to Yue, is to build up resistance against both the homogenizing effects of cultural hegemonies and the reductive essentialism of cultural provencialism, and to strive for global multicultural coexistence.
Yue Daiyun has lived a long and amazingly productive life and has witnessed many of the pivotal events of the development of her field throughout the twentieth-century. Chen Yuehong’s “The Rise of a Scholar and a Discipline in China” sums up Yue’s tremendous scholarly achievements despite the many political difficulties and career setbacks Yue encountered. The intersection of personal and national destinies, so compellingly illustrated in Yue Daiyun’s experience, reminds us once again of the social, political, and historical consciousness of literature and literary studies. This consciousness had once guided the Confucian ideal of
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From Chinese Literature Today Vol. 2 No.2