Coexistence in Diversity and Cross-Cultural Dialogues: An Interview with Yue Daiyun

By Jin, Ji | Chinese Literature Today, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Coexistence in Diversity and Cross-Cultural Dialogues: An Interview with Yue Daiyun


Jin, Ji, Chinese Literature Today


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In this interview with our featured scholar, Yue Daiyun, conducted by Ji Jin ..., Yue articulates her vision of a "third stage" of comparative literature studies, one marked by a new globalized multiculturalism centered on the ideas of mutual recognition, affirmation, and complementarity free of imperial cultural hegemonies. Yue vigorously and compellingly points to a new type of intercultural training for Chinese intellectuals: Those who are trained in Western literary theory and methods yet remain grounded in uniquely Chinese cultural discourses will be best equipped to "resurrect comparative literature" within a radically polycentric world.

Ji Jin: Hello, Dr. Yue! Thank you for agreeing to this interview. As the rise of comparative literature was due to the limits imposed on literary studies by subject areas, language, culture, and so on, literary research today has come a long way and is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary in many ways- from a widening of scope to theoretical integration. In such an academic environment, what is the position and value of comparative literature as a field of study? Also, how is it related to cross-cultural dialogues?

Yue Daiyun: I'm delighted to have this opportunity for a chat. If by "limits" you refer to the differences between subject areas, languages, and cultures, these will exist for a long time. No matter how integrated they become, we must strive to preserve an enduring environment of cultural diversity and difference; this is, in fact, an important task for cross-cultural study. With regard to the worldwide assimilation that has been unavoidably brought on by economic and technological globalization, what culture actually requires is global diversification. Since the second half of the twentieth century, people have been pursuing a globalization in which diverse cultures coexist, rather than one of monocultural supremacy. Achieving this is certainly not easy. The recent murder case in Norway has shocked us with the realization that far-right powers are still very much on the rampage-despising human equality, trampling on multiculturalism, and maintaining mental colonization. In Europe, many countries cannot do without the labor provided by large amounts of immigrants, but are unable to treat their cultures equally. Because of this there have been repeated outbursts of violence, some of which have been quite intense. The ideal of peaceful cultural coexistence between ethnic groups is still difficult to attain. The true value of comparative literature is in cross-cultural literary research, the goal of which is to promote common understanding and the improvement of people's mentalities through the mutual recognition, affirmation, and complementarity provided by literary studies. The end result will be cooperation between different ethnic cultures and global multicultural coexistence. Comparative literature has a historic mission and a great responsibility to reconstruct people's spiritual world, rebuild their civilization, and shape their future. All humans must inevitably face some common problems, and in each different culture there are valuable resources for solving these, which will be fully revealed through particular methods and viewpoints. While emphasizing the special worth of each ethnicity's culture, people can also seek beneficial global values through communication and dialogue between different cultures, and use these values to solve humanity's common problems. This is the basis of multicultural coexistence

JJ: In the past few years, foreign scholars have had numerous discussions on the "death of the discipline." As a noted researcher in comparative literature, what is your opinion on this? If we adopt your standpoint of crosscultural dialogue in an environment of diversity and coexistence, perhaps it should not be the "death of the discipline," but rather its resurrection? …

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