Associate Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Colorado-Boulder
Faye Yuan Kleeman's profile
Empire, Canon, and Patrilineal Legacy in Sōseki and Lu Xun: A global and comparative perspective
While Natsume Sōseki most likely would not be familiar to many Chinese youngsters, several of Lu Xun’s short stories (e.g., Professor Fujino, Hometown) have become standard reading in the Japanese middle and high school curriculum. Born less than two decades apart, Sōseki (1867-1916) and Lu Xun (1881-1936) have attained revered positions in their respective countries. Dubbed as the “fathers of modern literature” and “national authors” (kokuminsakka) by fervent readers and critics alike, their works have been canonized and widely circulated. Sōseki was well versed in Chinese poetry ( kanshi ) and adopted a new literary colloquial style. Lu Xun also wrote in prose and verse, employing both literary and vernacular Chinese. Sōseki is known for his full-length novels whereas Lu Xun only published in the short story format.
Their oversea experiences also echo each other. Sōseki studied in London (1900-1903) while Lu Xun studied in Japan (1902-1909). How did these two men from third world countries look at the British empire and the emerging Japanese empire? In their lonely and at times desperate student days, Sōseki met the Shakespeare scholar W.J. Craig, his tutor, while Lu Xun took classes with Professor Fujino in Sendai, both fateful, life- changing encounters. These personal encounters served as a gateway for these two loners to connect with the world.
Hirakawa Sukehiro touches upon the parallel lived experiences of the two authors in his Natsume Sōseki: Struggle of the non-occidental (Natsume Sōseki: hiseiyō no kudō, 1976). However the book, though peppered with interesting episodes and fully grounded in historical contextualization, falls short of engaging the parallels in a cohesive way. This paper seeks to bring forth a more integrated textual consideration of Sōseki’s essay “Mr. Craig” (“Kureigu sensei,” which Lu Xun translated into Chinese) and Lu’s short story “Professor Fujino” (“Fujino sensei”). Using the two narratives as a framework, I will explore issues of code switching (both linguistic and cultural), race and empire, canon formation in a transnational system, and the nature of graduated coloniality in both global and regional settings.
Bibliography: Hirakawa Hirosuke Natsume Soseki: hi-seiyō no kudō