Title

Travel along the Mobius strip : Somerset Maugham and Gu Hongming East of Suez

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

The International History Review

Publication Date

2014

Volume

36

Issue

1

First Page

1

Last Page

18

Publisher

Routledge

Keywords

Somerset Maugham, Gu Hongming, Mobius strip, colonial travel, psychological projection

Abstract

During his 1919–20 trip to China, English writer Somerset Maugham paid a special visit to Gu Hongming, an Edinburgh-educated Chinese philosopher and so-called ‘Confucian Sage’. By exploring the enigmatic interactions between Maugham and Gu in the context of colonial travel, this article illustrates the important role of psychological projection in the exchanges among elite travellers during an age of empire. Beyond a simple Orientalist or Occidentalist approach, the author proposes a new framework modelled on the geometric puzzle of the ‘Mobius strip’, a twisted and closed one-sided surface, to highlight the intersubjective nature of the East–West continuum. At first glance, East and West, as in the writings of Maugham and Gu, are on opposite sides of the strip, appearing static and well defined to each other at any given moment. However, the paradox of a Mobius strip lies in its twirling and continuous motion: East and West are constantly interacting, defining one another through contacts like Gu's and Maugham's, and actually merge as one object. As the transcultural processes of colonial travel created contacts between elites, their intersubjective encounters melded East and West in the co-construction of the binary. As such, East and West are always paradoxically defined together.

DOI

10.1080/07075332.2013.820776

Print ISSN

07075332

E-ISSN

19496540

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2014 Routledge. Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version

Language

English

Recommended Citation

Du, C. (2014). Travel along the Mobius strip: Somerset Maugham and Gu Hongming East of Suez. The International History Review, 36(1), 1-18, doi: 10.1080/07075332.2013.820776

Share

COinS