positions: east asia cultures critique 8.2 (2000) 263-268
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Several essays in this general issue of positions are preoccupied with the relation of historical subjects to the times. These works mediate the subjectivity question through the roomy, mature analytic traditions of psychoanalysis, philosophy, and Marxism.
Jing Tsu's tightly argued, innovative “Perversions of Masculinity: The Masochistic Male Subject in Yu Dafu, Guo Moruo, and Freud” enters questions of psyche and subject obliquely. The essay raises for consideration a general or historical dynamic in which masochism became the preferred fictional expression of what was held to be an inadequate national masculinity. In the early twentieth century, Jing Tsu argues, the new literature fused individual psyche to national character, and Freud in translation became an obsession among literary giants like Lu Xun, Yu Dafu, and Guo Moruo. Several considerations consequently flow from this argument. First, the Chinese literary modernist subject is properly Freudian and modern nationalism is [End Page 263] rooted in a psychic foundation of Freudian sexuality; second, Yu's and Guo's imaginative writing about the Chinese masochistic male subject sabotages some of Freud's own claims about masochism per se; and, third, the fact that nationalism does indeed mollify the traumas of colonialism is due in part to a moment when modern, individual male subjects lament a lost or disavowed homoerotic desire. These are the preconditions of Chinese heteronormative masculinity in literary modernism during the early twentieth century, according to Jing Tsu's consideration of the subject in the times.
It can be argued that Richard F. Calichman's “Nothing Resists Modernity: On Takeuchi Yoshimi's ‘Kindai Towa Nanika'” raises related questions. This time the problem of how a modern subject makes itself possible in history and how the desire to be a subject is comprehensible historically come to us in the idiom of philosophy rather than psychoanalysis, and through the deliberations of the Japanese Sinologist and philosopher Takeuchi, lovingly and economically reworked via Calichman's own categories and philosophic preoccupations. Posing history as that which steadfastly resists and consequently exceeds any reduction of itself to an oppositional logic like East versus West, Takeuchi (and arguably Calichman) attempts to pull subjects out of the morass of identity. Identity is the effect of ideals, representations, or signs and not history or actuality. An advocate writing after a terrible war, Takeuchi's critique rested on his insight that leaving idealized identity intact endorsed the desire motivating Japanese imperialists to actualize the false opposition of East and West in the first place. Takeuchi's intellectual and political aim is to deny the Japanese subject its self-identity and to point out why its alleged integrity and wholeness is an illusion. Consequently, Calichman shows that to dismantle this thoroughly implicated subjectivity Takeuchi initiated thinking negativity, difference without identity, negativizing subjectivity, and the problem of the ground.
In a rich, scholarly idiom, Marxist cultural critique, Xudong Zhang undertakes his consideration of nostalgia, the city, and consumer subject in “Shanghai Nostalgia: Postrevolutionary Allegories in Wang Anyi's Literary Production in the 1990s.” Teasing out for the 1990s an origin of Chinese modernity not exhausted by the history of China's revolution, Zhang focuses on the manner in which nostalgic consumerism in the 1990s guards against what he calls a postrevolutionary melancholy. In Wang Anyi's ironic [End Page 264] social realism he finds a writer who pulls out the cultural unconscious—real class politics that the ideology of nostalgia misrepresents as Shanghainese cosmopolitanism—into a conscious narrative about the coming to visibility of a “real” Shanghai. Particularly, her “Ballad of Eternal Sorrow” is symptomatic, because it brilliantly merges the stories of a human subject, fading Miss Shanghai, and a historical crystallization of Shanghainese urbanity itself. Miss Wang Qiyao's cultural aestheticization and normatization of consumption are precisely where the processes of the subject, the self, self-mastery, and identity are to be found. So the ability of Wang's fiction to expand on the Shanghainese subject's quotidian experience, Xudong Zhang notes, brings to our attention certain tangible sociological facts. Consumption is what makes Shanghai magical and...