The DFG Center for Advanced Studies “Russian-Language Poetry in Transition” (FOR 2603) cordially invites you to a live lecture by Prof. Dr. Zhiyi Yang (Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Fellow at Centre for Advanced Studies „Russian-Language Poetry in Transition“), entitled „From Haiku to Doggerel: Zhou Zuoren’s Translation of the Transience“. The lecture will be held in English and will be streamed live via Zoom. Please register by e-mail with our coordinator Katja Baharova (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than October 6, 2020, to receive the access data.
Zhou Zuoren (1885–1967), essayist, scholar, translator, and poet, was known as a vanguard of the New Culture Movement that attempted to create a literary vernacular as the language of modern China. In this talk, I will investigate the relation between his earlier promotion of vernacular poetry and his later composition of classical-style “doggerels.” From 1919 to 1924, Zhou promoted “little verse” (xiaoshi) as a form of lyric spontaneity that promises to capture the transient and the happenstance. For this purpose, he translated Japanese tanka, haiku, and senryū as paradigmatic compositions. The particular linguistic and grammatic features of the Japanese language, in his opinion, facilitate the expression of the transient. But the Chinese prose translations suffered from “too much freedom.” The subsequent efforts of Chinese poets produced, in Zhou’s opinion, mostly aesthetically disappointing results. This led to his disillusion of the potentials of the May Fourth poetry. From his 50th–sui birthday on, and especially after the fall of Beiping in 1937, Zhou increasingly turned to classical Chinese poetic genres, composing a series of short poems in regulated prosodies which he called “doggerels” (dayou shi). I argue that Zhou’s later compositions were a continuation of his earlier attempts to capture the transient, the private, and the ambivalent, in a form that evokes China’s cultural memory of similar historical circumstances of political and moral disorder. As such, these “doggerels” were anti-canons, representing Zhou’s rejection of grand moral and ideological narratives that defined Chinese literary modernity.