Crescent Moon School: the poets, poetry, and poetics of a modern conservative intellectual group in Republican China
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The Crescent Moon School (新月派Xinyue pai) is a Chinese intellectual group that was active from 1923 to 1934. Its members include Xu Zhimo 徐志摩(1897-1931), Hu Shi 胡适 (1891-1962), Liang Shiqiu 梁实秋(1903-1987), Wen Yiduo 闻一多(1899-1946), Luo Longji 罗隆基(1896-1965), and many other Anglo-American educated scholars in the Republican era. Although the group was engaged in various activities, poetry was their primary concern and their most notable practice. This thesis intends to solve two problems: 1) what common values or core spirit guided the various cultural practices of the group? 2) what are the poetic features and underlying poetics of the group as a whole? To answer the two questions, this thesis firstly examines the core spirit of the group by reviewing their activities and historical development. It argues that underlying the various activities and facts, there was a core spirit shared by the group. This core spirit, which I refer to as the “modern conservative spirit”, reflected a unique understanding of modernity that was different from that of the May Fourth discourse. They understood modernity not as a negation of tradition, but as a critical synthesis and mutual conformity between the old and the new, the local and the global. I show how the Crescent Moon intellectuals acquired this core spirit, and how it was displayed in their various activities. Secondly, this thesis provides detailed textual analysis of several Crescent Moon poems and reconstructs their poetics. It argues that their poetics demonstrated three faces, i.e. a romantic temperament, a classic ideal, and a modern consciousness. The three faces coexisted throughout the poetic practice of the group, although a certain face might have dominated in a certain period. I demonstrate how the three faces were unified under the guidance of the modern conservative spirit, and I argue that the simultaneousness of the three faces embodied the modern conservative intellectuals’ pursuit of literary modernity. By discussing the core spirit and poetics of the Crescent Moon School, this thesis concludes that the group was a missing link in Republican modern conservative trend, linking the late 1910s and early 1920s neotraditionalist thinkers with the mid-1930s Beijing School writers. The modern conservative intellectuals represented a dissenting voice in the Republican era, but they were also committed pursuers of modernity and cosmopolitanism.