The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917-1937

By Shu-Mei Shih | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Psychoanalysis and Cosmopolitanism
The Work of Guo Moruo

“Individualized individuals” do not exist by nature: they are created through the conflictual (dis)integration of primary memberships, i.e., when individuals can view the superior community as a liberating agency, which frees them from belonging to one single group, or possessing a single, undifferentiated, massive identity.

ETIENNE BALIBAR (1995)

What happens to Freudian psychoanalysis in the Chinese context, or rather, what happens to Chinese literature when it confronts psychoanalysis, especially in the context of the May Fourth valorization of teleological modernity? How does the construction of a landscape of desire that must selfconsciously conform to psychoanalytic frameworks become possible and necessary? As an imported discourse, how did psychoanalysis speak to the needs and agendas of modern Chinese intellectuals? Finally, what are the multiple implications of using psychoanalysis in local and global contexts? This chapter is an attempt to answer these questions through an analysis of the fictional and critical works of Guo Moruo (1892–1978) written before his mid-1920s conversion to Marxism. I examine the intersection between the desire for the modern and forms of modern desire, as they converge in texts that experiment with psychoanalysis. In general, psychoanalysis first had to be seen as having universal value in order to justify its use in the Chinese context, since psychoanalysis dictated desiring in very specific ways. Representing desire in the mode of psychoanalysis therefore necessitated a calculated process of objectification: breaking the theory down to its usable parts and in turn applying them.1

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1
Jingyuan Zhang underlines this point when she argues that Chinese writers selectively appropriated Freudian psychoanalysis, and especially prioritized three of its aspects: theories of artistic creativity, the Oedipus complex, and the interpretation of dreams. See her Psychoanalysis in China: Literary Transformations, 1919–1949 (Ithaca: Cornell East Asia Series, 1992), 3.

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