Cosmopolitanism and Its Discontents: The Dialectics between the Global and the Local in Lao She’s Fiction
MLQ: Modern Language Quarterly 69.1 (2008): 97-118.
Modern Chinese fiction dealing with cultural others can be taken as a lens through which to reread the cosmopolitan theory. At stake in the debate between communitarianism and liberalism are the viability of single cultural membership and its validity. Lao She’s “Self-Sacrifice” (1934) and “Dr. Wen” (1936-1937) question the viability of global cultural membership. For Lao She, cultural hotchpotch—as suggested by Salman Rushdie—is not an option. These novellas dramatize the dialectic between the global and the local at a crossroads of Chinese nationalism and Western imperialism. Lao She’s representation of Dr. Mao and Dr. Wen also pose challenging questions for his contemporaries and for twenty-first-century readers alike: Can one ever refuse to be defined by the local, either by birth or by acculturation? What are the implications and consequences if one so chooses?