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The Journal of Japanese Language Literature Studies > Volume 4(1); 2017 > Article
Border Crossings: The Journal of Japanese-Language Literature Studies 2017;4(1): 123-140.
doi: https://doi.org/10.22628/bcjjl.2017.4.1.123
Cheng Fangwu and the Desire for a Science of Literature: The Addition of “Differentials” to Natsume Soseki's Theory of Literature
Correspondence  Tetsuya HATTORI ,Email: tetsuya@coda.ocn.ne.jp
Published online: 30 June 2017.
Copyright ©2017 The Global Institute for Japanese Studies, Korea University
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
In the early 1920s, literary critic Cheng Fangwu argued for the existence of art for art's sake, relentlessly criticizing the Chinese literary establishment for its deterministic view of literature. Two works of criticism, namely “A Critique of 'Can chun”’ and “Poetry on the Defensive" (1923), show the influence and expansion of Natsume Soseki’s Bungakuron, or Theory of Literature (1907), despite its failure to cite it by name. One such development by Cheng is the introduction of differentials (bibun), complete with mathematical formulas and graphs, into Soseki's theories.
Cheng studied in Japan from 1910 to 1921, a period when Tanabe Hajime's journalistic essays focusing on the natural sciences was attracting wide readership. Tanabe also introduced the philosophical arguments of Hermann Cohen in which Cohen used differentials as a foundation for discussing ‘the nature of thinking.’ Cheng, however, used differentials to discuss the variation of emotion during the process of novel-reading.
Though obvious that Cheng made use of a pseudoscientific approach to literature in order to gain influence within the Chinese literary world, his essays also exhibit a desire for a science of literature, a desire he shared with Soseki. This paper examines how texts become regarded as literary theory and the influence they carry with them across various languages and disciplines.
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