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2012 events

Daoism, Phenomenology and the Literary Mind

Professor Hongzhang Wang

Visiting Professor at the Faculty of English Language and Literature, University of Oxford

Room Q117 (China Reading Room), Floor -1, Quadrangle Building [directions]

4-5pm, Wednesday 1 February 2012


 In his The Spirit of Chinese Arts published in the early 1960s,Xu Fuguan offered a detailed study of methodological affinities between Chuang-Tzu and Husserlian phenomenology. Inspired by Yu Yue’s well-textualized interpretation of “The Human World” in Chuang-Tzu and his refutation of some critical commentaries made by Kuo Hsiang on Chuang-Tzu, the first part of the present talk attempts a comparison between Husserl’s “pure consciousness” and Chuang Tzu’s “qi” (spirit). The tentative conclusion drawn from the comparative discussion is that, epistemologically speaking, Chuang Tzu’s way of thinking and Husserl’s phenomenological method are not as completely identical as envisioned by Xu Fuguan, because Husserl maintains the mutual apprehension and integration of the bifurcated subject and object, while Chuang Tzu upholds “fasting of the mind” and “sitting in forgetfulness” so that the spirit might be “an emptiness ready to receive all things.” Although Chuang Tzu’s “qi” might serve as an ideal field where Husserl’s “things themselves” can appear in their totality, Chuang Tzu’s radical elimination of subjectivity is a hallmark that makes him different from Husserl. The second part of the talk explores phenomenological implications in Liu Xie’s The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, where extensive quotations are made of Chuang-Tzu.


Mr Hongzhang Wang is Professor of English and Comparative Literature, College of Foreign Languages and Literature, Fudan University. He was Freeman Fellow (2002-2003) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, and he is currently visiting the Faculty of English Language and Literature, University of Oxford, embarking upon a research project entitled “Literature, History, and Politics: China and its Civilization in the Eyes of Some Victorians.” Current positions held include Deputy Director of Foreign Literature Research Institute, Fudan University, and Deputy Secretary General of China’s Society for Research of Foreign Literary Theory and Comparative Poetics. He is the author, editor, and translator of more than ten books.

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