Date of Award

1-1-2011

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Guo Jie

Second Advisor

Thomas Jackson Rice

Abstract

Lu Xun and Joyce had rather similar life experiences. The most noteworthy similarity was that their medical experience led them to make a naturalist diagnosis of the sickness of the Chinese or Irish spirit in their works. My dissertation explores this issue from a Nietzchean perspective. I select the perspective not so much because Nietzsche, who assumed the role of the spiritual physician, had a great influence on Lu Xun and Joyce but because the three individuals had commonalities. They shared a common concern, namely the problems of autocracy and the degeneration of the prevailing morality. Moral autocracy and degeneration vitiated life by depriving the individual of freedom. Lu Xun and Joyce were committed to exposing the slave mentality of the Chinese or Irish people, including both literati/intellectuals and masses. I confine my discussion to Lu Xun's Call to Arms and Wandering and Joyce's Dubliners. I argue that the slave mentality is displayed in spectatorship and signified by the vicious cycle of history, and that for Joyce and to some extent for Lu Xun as well, the artistic affirmation of life promises an awakening from history as nightmare, thus enabling spiritual evolution. My project concludes with a large question: why do the two writers of different cultural backgrounds display so many similarities while maintaining their fierce independence? From my point of view, part of the answer may be sought in nihilism, which exemplified the global crisis at the turn of the twentieth century. Nihilism, according to Michael Gillespie, is a fundamental feature of modernity. Thus, it is modernity that ultimately links Lu Xun and Joyce together.

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