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postgraduate thesis: British left-wing writers and China: Harold Laski, W.H. Auden and Joseph Needham

TitleBritish left-wing writers and China: Harold Laski, W.H. Auden and Joseph Needham
Authors
Advisors
Issue Date2013
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Xu, X. [徐曦]. (2013). British left-wing writers and China : Harold Laski, W.H. Auden and Joseph Needham. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5043427
AbstractThis thesis explores cross-cultural encounters between China and three British left-wing writers – Harold Laski, W. H. Auden and Joseph Needham. The motivations underlying this study are the diversity and intensiveness of the British left’s engagements with China’s search for modernization in the twentieth century. Laski, Auden and Needham were all prominent British left-wing intellectuals, and each exerted a remarkable influence on the Chinese pursuit of modern democracy, literature, and science, the three important pillars of China’s modernization since the May Fourth period. Grouping them together, the thesis makes a contribution to the study of the international impacts of the British left in general and the study of Sino-British cultural exchanges in particular. The conventional view emphasizes Western influences on China in modern times as unilateral knowledge transplantation from the advanced West to the backward East, thus the important role of the Chinese intelligentsia as cultural agency is often marginalized. This thesis, by contrast, interprets the British left’s encounters with China as a process of interactive, dynamic, even dialectical transformation, from which both sides derived intellectual benefits. It not only demonstrates the initiative taken by the Chinese intellectuals in translating, interpreting, and applying Western knowledge to address their own particular problems, but also attempts to show the inspirations the British left-wing writers took from China in their own humanitarian struggle for a more liberal, equitable and peaceful world. The thesis is organized in chronological order with the earliest encounter discussed first. Chapter One examines Laski’s impact on Chinese liberals’ imagination and construction of an equitable and democratic China. It shows that the Chinese applications of Laski’s political theory to their local concerns were highly selective, and it was difficult for Chinese liberals to fully embrace Laski’s thought because of the inner conflict between the liberal and Marxist aspects of Laski. Chapter Two discusses Auden and Isherwood’s co-authored book Journey to a War (1939) in the critical tradition of travel writing. It argues that their ironic self-consciousness of the travel book genre itself makes the book unique in Western representations of China, but exposes them to the critical charge of immature frivolity. It also shows that Auden worked towards a symbolic solution for the conflicting demands of the public and private worlds by interpreting the China war into a global human history in his sonnets. Chapter Three focuses on the reception of Auden’s poetry in China. Exposing the limitations of the prevailing formalist-aesthetic approach, it unearths Zhu Weiji’s Marxist interpretation of Auden and proposes an ideological criticism to re-examine Auden’s influences on Chinese modernist poets. Chapter Four explores Needham’s conversion to Chinese culture and his influences on China’s understanding of its own science. By tracing various Chinese responses to the Needham Question, it argues that although Needham’s research boosted the confidence of Chinese in their scientific tradition, the Chinese hunger for modern science is closely associated with nationalism, which is contradictory to the socialist universalism that behind Needham’s intellectual project.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectDemocracy - China - History.
Chinese literature - English influences.
Science - China - History.
Dept/ProgramEnglish

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.advisorKerr, DWF-
dc.contributor.advisorTong, QS-
dc.contributor.authorXu, Xi-
dc.contributor.author徐曦-
dc.date.issued2013-
dc.identifier.citationXu, X. [徐曦]. (2013). British left-wing writers and China : Harold Laski, W.H. Auden and Joseph Needham. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5043427-
dc.description.abstractThis thesis explores cross-cultural encounters between China and three British left-wing writers – Harold Laski, W. H. Auden and Joseph Needham. The motivations underlying this study are the diversity and intensiveness of the British left’s engagements with China’s search for modernization in the twentieth century. Laski, Auden and Needham were all prominent British left-wing intellectuals, and each exerted a remarkable influence on the Chinese pursuit of modern democracy, literature, and science, the three important pillars of China’s modernization since the May Fourth period. Grouping them together, the thesis makes a contribution to the study of the international impacts of the British left in general and the study of Sino-British cultural exchanges in particular. The conventional view emphasizes Western influences on China in modern times as unilateral knowledge transplantation from the advanced West to the backward East, thus the important role of the Chinese intelligentsia as cultural agency is often marginalized. This thesis, by contrast, interprets the British left’s encounters with China as a process of interactive, dynamic, even dialectical transformation, from which both sides derived intellectual benefits. It not only demonstrates the initiative taken by the Chinese intellectuals in translating, interpreting, and applying Western knowledge to address their own particular problems, but also attempts to show the inspirations the British left-wing writers took from China in their own humanitarian struggle for a more liberal, equitable and peaceful world. The thesis is organized in chronological order with the earliest encounter discussed first. Chapter One examines Laski’s impact on Chinese liberals’ imagination and construction of an equitable and democratic China. It shows that the Chinese applications of Laski’s political theory to their local concerns were highly selective, and it was difficult for Chinese liberals to fully embrace Laski’s thought because of the inner conflict between the liberal and Marxist aspects of Laski. Chapter Two discusses Auden and Isherwood’s co-authored book Journey to a War (1939) in the critical tradition of travel writing. It argues that their ironic self-consciousness of the travel book genre itself makes the book unique in Western representations of China, but exposes them to the critical charge of immature frivolity. It also shows that Auden worked towards a symbolic solution for the conflicting demands of the public and private worlds by interpreting the China war into a global human history in his sonnets. Chapter Three focuses on the reception of Auden’s poetry in China. Exposing the limitations of the prevailing formalist-aesthetic approach, it unearths Zhu Weiji’s Marxist interpretation of Auden and proposes an ideological criticism to re-examine Auden’s influences on Chinese modernist poets. Chapter Four explores Needham’s conversion to Chinese culture and his influences on China’s understanding of its own science. By tracing various Chinese responses to the Needham Question, it argues that although Needham’s research boosted the confidence of Chinese in their scientific tradition, the Chinese hunger for modern science is closely associated with nationalism, which is contradictory to the socialist universalism that behind Needham’s intellectual project.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.source.urihttp://hub.hku.hk/bib/B50434275-
dc.subject.lcshDemocracy - China - History.-
dc.subject.lcshChinese literature - English influences.-
dc.subject.lcshScience - China - History.-
dc.titleBritish left-wing writers and China: Harold Laski, W.H. Auden and Joseph Needham-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5043427-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEnglish-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b5043427-
dc.date.hkucongregation2013-

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