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147 “A Watch Dropped in the Desert”: Journey to a War and the New Life Movement

Journal: Athens Journal of History (Vol.1, No. 2)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 147-160

Keywords : ;

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Through an analysis of the socio-ideological foundations of the New Life Movement in Republican China (1912-1949), this paper is a cross-cultural study of China’s urban modernity in the 1940s with the example of Shanghai. It focuses on Journey to a War coauthored by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, which provides readers with counter-arguments that complicate this issue much more than Chiang Kai-shek’s impulse of “romantic nationalism” . The inquiry begins with the point observed by Auden that such a movement is not a modern problem; quite the contrary, it has solid roots in China’s traditional culture. Through Auden’s documentary review of the movement as the promise of social transformation under the Kuomintang leadership, the author argues that, generally speaking, Auden’s critique of the failure of the movement is quite objective, but some points remain debatable. Through the Audenesque rhetoric in describing Chinese modernity as “A Watch Dropped in the Desert,” the ambivalence of Chinese modernity is revealed through both dimensions of time and space in a global context. Thus, due to the unequal and simultaneous process of orientalization and occidentalization that alternately reminds readers of the combined ideologies adopted in the New Life Movement, Journey to a War provides us with a bystander’s perspective in viewing the cultural and economic mechanism of the 1940s Chinese society.

Last modified: 2015-04-01 22:06:20