Affective Betrayal of Translated Political Modernity in Late Qing China
- Author(s): Tsui, Kam Jean
- Advisor(s): Hu, Ying
- et al.
“Affective Betrayal” traces the presence of emotion in journalistic and fictional writings published during the early 1900’s, and examines how it exposes the fragility and fragmentation of Chinese modernity. The dissertation begins with a simple observation: after the 1895 Sino-Japanese War, Chinese intellectuals circulated modern political concepts in a highly provocative fashion. Charged with lyrical intensity and calculated to provoke, their affective presentations contradict the assumption that Chinese modernity began life as a constructed “discourse” derived from cross-cultural exchanges and consolidated by power relations. To explicate how the lyrical intensity disrupted the semantic consistency of these translated concepts, the dissertation studies the formation of a “text” as the production of an aesthetic “object.” In my detailed formal analyses, I show that the leading late Qing intellectual Liang Qichao (1873-1929) circulated his writings as aural texts and pictorial texts, and that translated modern concepts were received as reading as well as listening and visualizing experiences. Focusing on epistemic uncertainties created by Liang’s competing affective presentations, I argue that Chinese modernity often teeters in a state of aesthetic ambivalence. It is displaced from the modern political discourse. By revealing the uncertainty and confusion that are deep-seated in China’s modernization process, the dissertation seeks to explain why the import of modern concepts had led to China’s continued political impasse, rather than rationality and progress, after the 1911 revolution.