Developmental Aesthetics: Representing Railways and Extraction in Modern China
4: Poverty as Landscape: On Qu Qiubai's and Xu Zhimo's Railway Journeys to Soviet Russia in the 1920s
Saturday, March 26, 2022
6:00pm – 7:30pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Qu Qiubai and Xu Zhimo, two renowned modern Chinese writers and representatives of Marxist and Liberal intellectuals in Republican era, also should be considered as the first generation of international train passengers in China. This essay examines Qu and Xu’s railway journeys to Soviet Russia in the 1920s, demonstrating how the railway experience constituted their literary writings and political stands, to throw some new light on the issue of Chinese modernity. Since the 19th century, the interaction between railway journey and modern subject mainly embodied at mobility and acceleration in the West. However, speed had never entered the core value of modern Chinese literature. Qu and Xu’s cases revealed a different way of expressing railway modernity. Drawing on historical studies and textual analysis, this essay argues that other than the sense of speed, the landscape viewing on the train rearticulated Qu and Xu’s subjects in the level of literature and politics. It is specially reflected in their attitudes toward poverty: to see it as part of landscape, or to deal with it as social problem separated from nature.