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Presentation "The Conflicting Dynamics of World Literary Heritage: The Entangled Spaces of Lu Xun and Sándor Petőfi" by Emily Mae Graf

News from Jun 29, 2021

The connection between Lu Xun and Sándor Petőfi was one of admiration in a biographical sense (with Lu Xun including Petőfi in his essay “On the Power of Mara Poetry”) and one of intertextuality and straightforward citation in a literary sense. Unable to read Petőfi’s poems in Hungarian, Lu Xun read them in German before translating them into Chinese. The entanglements between Lu Xun and Petőfi are not only found in a textual, but also in a material dimension: Both writers were institutionalized in monumental state-run museums in the 1950s: The Beijing Lu Xun Museum and the Petőfi Literary Museum in Budapest. Here, Petőfi’s poems in German translation are displayed in the Beijing Lu Xun Museum and a Lu Xun special exhibiton was organized in the Petőfi Literary Museum in August 2016. Moreover, bronze busts of Petőfi are presented before the Lu Xun museums in Beijing and Shanghai, and a bronze bust of Lu Xun is on display in Petőfi’s hometown of Kiskőrös. This paper approaches these various material and spatial connections between the two writers by tracing two conflicting dynamics: On the one hand, these spaces reveal the entangledness of world literary heritage across national borders. On the other, they show how the institutionalization of writers in museums consolidate the concept of national heroes. By presenting an annual ceremony of the Hungarian community in Bejing on the grounds of the Lu Xun Museum in 2013, I show how the museum is turned into a space in which the Hungarian nation is performed. Analyzing the commemoration practices of Petőfi and Lu Xun provides insights into the dynamics of how world literary heritage is produced, how remembering and forgetting are linked, and how the concept of world literature can both go beyond and reinforce national borders.

This talk had been part of the Virtual Workshop “Lu Xun and World Literature” organized by the Division of Humanities, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Date: July 4, 2021

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