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Title:Goethe in China: A Study of Reception and Influence
Author(s):Yip, Terry Siu-Han
Department / Program:Comparative and World Literature
Discipline:Comparative and World Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
Literature, Asian
Literature, Germanic
Abstract:A century and a half after Goethe revealed his interest in Chinese culture, a reciprocal of attention to Goethe took place in China. Chinese translations of Goethe's works, Werther and Faust in particular, were enthusiastically devoured by the reading public, while articles and books were published dealing with Goethe's amorous life, personality, scientific achievements, and literary works. Magazines and newspapers brought out special issues celebrating his birthday or commemorating his death.
The Chinese were almost unanimous in their admiration for Goethe. The popularity of Werther, for example, reflected the romantic aspirations and sentimentalism prevalent in the 1920s. Werther was eagerly read as a sentimental novel in line with the Chinese "mandarin ducks and butterflies" fiction. The protagonist Werther, with his love sickness, and the charming Lotte, with her grace, were conceived as an ideal pair of lovers (ts'ai-tzu yu chia-jen), with whom many young Chinese readers identified.
The popularity of Faust, however, reflected a different aspect of the literary climate. Wartime China demanded a pragmatic approach to literature. Faust served Chinese political needs with its emphases on perseverance, persistence, and the spirit of the individual striving for excellence. The Chinese intellectuals saw Faust as the celebration of a progressive and positive attitude to life--an attitude most essential in the building of a strong and modern China.
The influence of Goethe in modern Chinese literature can be best illustrated by the recurring themes of impossible love and romantic youth in the works of T'ien Han, Chang Tzu-p'ing, and Hsieh Ping-ying. Ts'ao Hsueh-sung's dramatic version of Werther represents the Chinese fascination for Goethe's romantic individualism and highlights its impact upon young Chinese intellectuals.
The wide spread popularity of Werther further contributed to the sudden flourishing of the epistolary novel form in China in the 1920s and 1930s. Significant formal and thematic resemblances exist in Werther and Lu Yin's The Sorrows of a Certain Youth, Kuo Mo-jo's Donna Carmela and Fallen Leaves, and Chang I-p'ing's A Batch of Love Letters.
Issue Date:1985
Description:352 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1985.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8511694
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1985

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