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The Early Modern Aesthetic Planning of the Outspoken Subject: A Case Study of the Categories of the “Nature” by Wang Gen and Rousseau

Chinese Journal of Literary Criticism

No.3, 2018 

 

The Early Modern Aesthetic Planning of the Outspoken Subject: A Case Study of the Categories of the “Nature” by Wang Gen and Rousseau

(Abstract)

 

 Tong Wei

 

Wang Gen’s and Rousseau’s natural categories did not affect each other, but there are family resemblances in their constructions of an outspoken subject as the central problematique of early modernity. In terms of the intrinsic dimension, the category of “nature” is based on transcendental moral feelings and sympathy. Rousseau and Wang Gen constructed a dynamic subjective identity through religion and morality respectively. In terms of the external dimension, Rousseau debunked  the control of instrumental and technical rationality over the subject, and Wang Gen hoped to return to a simple premodern society of rule by kernel and benevolence. Both of them ultimately constructed the outspoken subject based on everyday life. The complicated tension between the intrinsic and external dimensions became both the drive for the outspoken subject of early modernity, and an internal root for various risks. Chinese aesthetic planning of the outspoken subject in early modernity had twofold dimensions or risks. One risk stemmed from the impulse to acclaim individuality, emotion and the instinctive desire of the outspoken subject as proposed by Rousseau. The other risk came from group politics, which always emphasized on the ethical relationship in rebuilding the ideal ethical and moral order. This was contrary to Rousseau’s method. This analysis helps to grasp the literary aesthetic thoughts and the literary creation scene in early modernity.