Published Humanitas, Volume XVII, Nos. 1 and 2, 2004

Liang Shiqiu (1903-1987), one of Irving Babbitt’s Chinese students at Harvard, was an important critic, littérateur, lexicographer and translator in twentieth-century China. Liang was chairman of the English departments at Peking University and Peking Normal University before going to Taiwan in 1949, where he taught at Taiwan Normal University until his retirement in 1966. He first came to national attention in China for his extended literary debate— the famous “war of words”—with Lu Xun, who was everywhere regarded as China’s leading leftist or “proletarian” writer of the 1930s. Decades later, Liang’s reputation would attain new heights when, having been invited to join a committee of prominent scholars who were jointly to produce the first translation of Shakespeare’s complete works into Chinese, he somehow managed to finish the gargantuan task all by himself.

This article will discuss Babbitt’s influence on Liang Shiqiu and the ways the latter actively advocated the ideas of Babbitt’s New Humanism through his writings and translations. In particular, I intend to demonstrate that Babbitt had a decisive influence on Liang’s literary and social thought, which in turn profoundly affected his selection of Western literary works for translation into Chinese, together with his critical commentary on those works. Finally, I shall argue that the influence of Babbitt and his intellectual ally Paul Elmer More played a crucial role in Liang’s literary battle with Lu Xun, which is ranked among the most notable intellectual events of twentieth-century Chinese history.

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