By Kang Liu
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Additional info for Aesthetics and Marxism: Chinese Aesthetic Marxists and Their Western Contemporaries
But the role of art was largely misunderstood by modernists, who transmuted art into an organic, self-referential construct. It was valorized as an ontological being, as a pure innovation of the imagination of the individual artist, divorced from social and historical contexts. By so doing, the modernist artifact—or the ‘‘well-wrought urn,’’ to borrow John Keats’s celebrated metaphor—became locked up in an aporia, turning itself into a reified and alienated object in the very moment of its own creation.
It was directed against assumptions about the transparency of language, which can represent truth and reality with no distortion, and those of Western metaphysics invested in mimesis itself, as embodied by the aesthetic modes of classicism, realism, and naturalism. The purported ‘‘crisis of mimesis’’ was, in hindsight, a cultural constituent of the experience of modernity. ’’ But the role of art was largely misunderstood by modernists, who transmuted art into an organic, self-referential construct.
Autonomy or Self-Destruction: The Modernist Aesthetics of Wang Guowei Wang Guowei was no social reformist like Liang Qichao. He was primarily a literary scholar, who dedicated himself to the aesthetic ideal of free individuality, autonomy, and separation. He was deeply immersed in Schopenhauerian, Nietzschean, and Chan (or Zen) Buddhist aesthetics. Wang’s aesthetic ideas can be seen as radically modernist and traditionalist at once. As a person, he remains a controversial figure. A scholar of formida18 aesthetics and marxism ble erudition in philosophy, aesthetics, history, and literary criticism, Wang was perhaps the first to incorporate modern Western concepts into studies of Chinese literature in sophisticated ways.