[csaa-forum] CCLCS SEMINAR SERIES: Certitude and Linguistic Play in Chinese Critical Theory - 22 April

Andrew Milner Andrew.Milner at arts.monash.edu.au
Mon Apr 20 08:23:16 CST 2009

Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies
Monash University

Wednesday 22nd April, 3.00 to 5.00 pm, Room W710, Menzies Building
(Building 11), Clayton Campus.

Gloria Davies

Gloria Davies is Associate Professor in Chinese. Her publications 
include Voicing Concerns (2001), Globalization in the Asian Region 
(2004), Worrying About China: The Language of Chinese Critical Inquiry 
(2007) and Profiles in Courage (2008).

This paper deals with the language of Chinese intellectual discourse and 
explores its dynamism as a discourse that is radically cosmopolitan 
while retaining an ancient and destiny-inspired rhetoric cum rationale. 
In this paper, I argue in favor of translating the Chinese term for 
intellectual discourse (sixiang) as “critical inquiry”, as opposed to 
the conventional idea of “modern Chinese thought”. The latter tends to 
suggest a discourse of settled ideas that is quite at odds with the 
agonistic nature of Chinese intellectual discourse. By understanding 
sixiang as critical inquiry, we are more effectively reminded that this 
discourse bears the legacy of its earlier incarnations in China’s 
war-torn and violent twentieth century. As critical inquiry, sixiang is 
shaped and burdened by the instrumentalization of language as a 
nation-building tool and a revolutionary weapon. Focusing on the work of 
China’s best known modern writer and critic, Lu Xun, the paper examines 
how an enduring anticipation of collective betterment (or national 
perfection) predisposes the discourse of sixiang towards certitude. In 
this regard, it will also consider the ways in which sixiang is enriched 
by linguistic play that acknowledges the contingency of beliefs and 
values on the words used in their articulation.

Wine, cheese and nibbles will be provided.

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