This thesis investigates the critic and writer Liu Zaifu’s prose and his theoretical construction after he began his exilic experience in 1989. By tracing Liu’s changing attitudes towards “exile”, as well as his perennial deliberations or rethinking on the critical issue of “subjectivity in literature”, the present thesis seeks to examine Liu’s poetics of wandering and his spiritual trajectory with an inward tendency. It mainly addresses two questions tied to this introspective turn manifested in his ten volumes of prose and his critical essays and books written throughout his drifting life. The first is how he redefines “home” and “state” in his exile, transcending the restrictive categories of the terms. And the second is how he revised his recognitions of the relationship between “self” and “other”, “inner self” and “material self” and “real self” and “false self”.
By investigating such topics through texts analysis, I argue that Liu Zaifu turns his physical exile into a permanent, internal self-exile, and thus, his poetics of wandering reveals a metaphysical meaning beyond its geographical and historical ones, engaging with the legacy of Zhuangzi and Chan Buddhism. In specific, a new, cultural homeland is unexpectedly located in Liu’s mind, through a way of transcending the painful restrictions of his existence to experience a sense of home-within-homelessness. Meanwhile, in Liu’s theoretical reconstruction of “inter-subjectivity” and “inner inter-subjectivity” in the exilic condition, he intervenes into the question of “revolutions” and “enlightenment”. By analyzing his transition from advocating literary subjectivity to realizing the hell of the self, I argue that Liu repudiates the grand narrative of “revolution” and “enlightenment” and provides an “internal perspective”, to explore the transcendental quality of literature. It is in this way that Liu Zaifu attempts to search or reconstruct a literary, individual and transcendental subject, which resonates with the Zen spirit.