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Promoting integration of literary theories

Sponsored by Social Sciences in China Press (SSCP) and the Institute of Chinese Literary Criticism, the fourth academic forum of “Contemporary Chinese Literature Theories: Reflection and Reconstruction” was held in Tianjin on Nov. 3 to 5. It was co-organized by the College of Literature at Tianjin Normal University, and the editorial department of Chinese Literary Criticism.
At the forum, experts on literary theory and criticism across the country had in-depth discussions on the “Inheritance and Innovation of Traditional Chinese Literature Theories.”
Publicity of hermeneutics
Zhang Jiang, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and editor-in-chief of SSCP, pointed out that since the middle of the 20th century, “explanation” or “interpretation” has become the central theme of Western philosophy, literature and history. However, just like “building towers on the sand,” it is hard to establish and study China’s hermeneutic theory by depending on Western theories and discourses alone. Therefore, it is urgent to think about establishing China’s own hermeneutics, which includes the starting point, path, goals and direction as well as demonstrating its functions and values.
Zhang also stressed that scholars must insist on Chinese discourse as the core, classical hermeneutics as the resource and Western hermeneutics as a reference point to achieve the transformation of traditional hermeneutics. Through this approach, academics can establish a domestic brand of hermeneutics featuring a Chinese model of concepts, thinking and theories. Understanding and recognizing the “publicity of intepretation,” a concept brought forth by Zhang, is an important starting point for exploring contemporary Chinese hermeneutics.
Dang Shengyuan, a research fellow from the Institute of Foreign Literature at CASS, said delving into traditional Chinese literary theory is a process of continuous interpretation through various approaches, rather than a closed or flawless system. In this light, Zhang Fugui, a professor from the College of Literature at Jilin University, said Chinese literature theories must present both “universal values and individual consciousness,” and “only with universal values can Chinese hermeneutics be accepted, while universal values cannot live without individual ideas.”
Historical integration
Li Hongyan, deputy editor-in-chief of SSCP, said the relationship between the universality of human culture and diversity of national culture is dialectical. He indicated that universality is the basis for studying any issues related to human society, and through this, one can analyze variety and specificity of literary works.
Zhao Yanqiu, a professor from the College of Literature at Hunan Normal University, suggested that Chinese literature theory should draw on elements from both East and West, regarding reality as the platform to develop theoretical discourse, so as to achieve “theoretical self-establishment beyond the Eastern and Western theories.”
Fang Weigui, a professor from the College of Literature at Beijing Normal University, said that “any good theories can be introduced and used.” Li Yuchun, a professor from the College of Literature at Central China Normal University, stressed that it’s of vital importance to stay clear-minded in the revitalization of Chinese literature and the reconstruction of China’s image, by insisting on equal exchanges with the West, to reconstruct China’s new image against the background of globalization.
There are differences between traditional Chinese literary theories and Western ones, in views on literary values, criticism methods, criticism style and criticism language, said Chen Xiaoming, a professor from the department of literature at Beijing University. He also stressed the need for constant attention and reflection in the process of making creative transformation between Western and Eastern literary theories.
Li Chunqing, a professor from the College of Literature at Beijing Normal University, said that China’s centuries of research results of literary theories provide excellent paradigms and approaches to theoretical reconstruction. In addition, Mao Xuanguo, a professor from the College of Literature and Journalism at Central South University, said that rhetorical criticism offers workable approaches to the reconstruction of Chinese literature theories.