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British Modernism and Chinoiserie$
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Anne Witchard

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748690954

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748690954.001.0001

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China and the Formation of the Modernist Aesthetic Ideal

China and the Formation of the Modernist Aesthetic Ideal

(p.18) Chapter 1 China and the Formation of the Modernist Aesthetic Ideal
British Modernism and Chinoiserie

David Porter

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter begins with an overview of the nineteenth-century history of the idea of China as an ‘aesthetic’ culture, or one that might be best apprehended through an aesthetic lens, in contrast to the ‘theoretical’ disposition of the West. In order to examine the function of the idea of a ‘Chinese aesthetic’ for Modernist writers, and the Bloomsbury group in particular, it focuses on Lytton Strachey’s play The Son of Heaven (1913), asking what imaginative needs does it serve and which characteristic features of Modernism the ‘Chinese aesthetic’ enables or brings to the foreground? In doing so it explains the origins of the early 20c obsession with Chinese poetry of the Tang dynasty, and how this poetry came to embody the notion of a Chinese civilizational aesthetic.

Keywords:   Bloomsbury Group, Aesthetics, Lytton Strachey, Tang Dynasty

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