The Problematic Formation of the Modern Self in Lu Xun’s “In Memoriam” and Ding Ling’s “Miss Sophia’s Diary”
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The crisis of the Chinese nation in the early twentieth century compelled May Fourth intellectuals to search for a modern self in order to modernize and strengthen the nation. They did so by self-consciously experimenting with literary forms and genres, from which the first-person narratives arose. This thesis explores how particular formal or generic characteristics produce, problematize, or even impede the formation of a modern self modeled on the Western Enlightenment notions of the self as autonomous, coherent, and bounded. I argue that despite the two authors’ attempt to create an aspirational modern self, the selves constructed in the two texts are always fragile, split and fragmented. It not only reveals the limits of the Western Enlightenment epistemology of the self but also a more complicated processes of how the concepts of the self and subjectivity, as discursive constructs, are contested and negotiated in particular historical circumstance and social reality.