3/24 Yihui Sheng

Ph.D. Candidate, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan

“Making a New Sound:
The Materiality of the Production of Kunshan Qiang

Time: Friday, March 24, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Location:  Wieboldt 408

Please note the unusual location!

★Co-Sponsored by Theater and Performance Studies Workshop★

Abstract: Late-Ming China enjoyed an exuberant soundscape of southern arias: people with various levels of literacy sang arias in private studios, touring boats, urban brothels, and public gatherings. Kunshan qiang, a singing style (qiang) of southern arias that originated in the Wu region in southeast China and named after Kunshan, between Shanghai and Lake Taihu, stood out as a dominant new sound. Scholarly discussions about the development of Kunshan qiang have focused on a discourse of ya (orthodox and refined) and su (vulgar and popular), arguing that Kunshan qiang was reformed into a musical manifestation of refined taste. One assumption insinuated in these discussions is that the ya-su division can be clearly defined, so the ways in which Kunshan qiang represents the late-Ming understanding of ya-su are also decipherable. However, as Wai-yee Li has recently pointed out, the ya-su division connotes flexible and sometimes contradictory meanings (Li 2022, 93). For this reason, the representational relation between Kunshan qiang and the cultural conceptions of ya also becomes questionable.

Proposing an alternative framework to the ya-su discourse, I introduce a material perspective to analyze Kunshan qiang. I examine a series of material practices that shaped the reform of Kunshan qiang in the late Ming, including the introduction of melodic instruments, the creation of a singing language through annotating marks, and the promotion of a rhythm technique. I argue that Kunshan qiang hybridized the material practices of northern and southern arias to develop its own musical features. This hybridization is less a top-down process from the cultural elites to the less educated performers than one reflecting mutual influences among practitioners across a broad social spectrum. Such a collaborative effort rendered the reformed Kunshan qiang more accessible and attractive to a broader audience in the late Ming than had previously been the case.

Presenter: Yihui Sheng is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on early modern Chinese literature and theater. She has recently defended her dissertation, which is titled, still tentatively, “Performative Reading and Close Listening: Excavating the Media of Chuanqi Song-Drama in Early Modern China (1550s–1750s).” Apart from her academic interests, Yihui has been an amateur singer of Kunqu for almost fifteen years.

Respondents: Judith Zeitlin is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in East Asian Languages & Civilizations and Theater & Performance Studies at the University of Chicago. Her most recent book is The Voice as Something More: Essays Toward Materiality, co-edited with Martha Feldman (University of Chicago, 2019).

She is the author of Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (1993) and The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature (2007), and co-editor of Writing and Materiality in China (2003), Thinking with Cases: Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History (2007), Chinese Opera Film (2010), Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture (2014). She is currently completing a book on the voice, text, and instrument in early modern Chinese entertainment culture. Her next project is to embark on a new, complete, annotated English translation of Pu Songling’s masterpiece Liaozhai’s Strange Tales (Liaozhai zhiyi).

Jacob Reed is a PhD candidate in music theory and history at the University of Chicago. His dissertation project, “Negotiating Grammars: Encounters Between Music and Text” examines domains where language and music supplement, replace, and fight with one another, drawing on examples and tools from sources including hip-hop, pop music, and Kunqu theory. He also performs widely on keyboard instruments, playing organ recitals, collaborative piano, and basso continuo throughout the Chicagoland area.

This event is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with support from a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center Grant.

Spring 2023 Schedule

Dear colleagues, faculty members, and friends,

The Arts and Politics of East Asia Workshop (APEA) is pleased to announce our Spring 2023 schedule. The workshop will meet on Fridays 3:00-5:00 pm in the Spring quarter unless otherwise noted. As usual, we will send reminder emails with location info prior to every workshop session, along with the link to the pre-circulated papers. Please sign up for our listserv if you have not already received those emails.

Spring 2023 Schedule

March 24th, Friday (in-person), 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Yihui Sheng, Ph.D. Candidate, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan
“Beyond the Voice: The Materiality of the Production of Kunshan Qiang”
Discussants: Judith Zeitlin, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor, EALC; Jacob Reed, Ph.D. Candidate, Music
Location: Wieboldt 408
★Co-Sponsored by Theater and Performance Studies Workshop★
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with support from a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center Grant.

March 29th, Wednesday (in-person), 3:30–5:00 p.m.
Yuwei Zhou, Ph.D. Student, EALC
“Was There a Clan Cemetery in Yinxu? –– A Spatial and Statistical Approach to Mortuary Practices in Late Shang China”
Location: LaSalle Banks Room, Oriental Institute
★Co-Sponsored by Interdisciplinary Archaeology Workshop★

April 7th, Friday (in-person), 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Nick Ogonek, Ph.D. Student, EALC
“Fujoshi Characters and the Culture of Redemption: On ‘Liking Homos’ and Asahara Naoto’s Kanojo ga sukina mono wa homo deatte boku de wa nai
Discussant: Jiarui Sun, Ph.D. Student, EALC
Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

April 28th, Friday (in-person), 4:00–6:00 p.m.
Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Art History and EALC; Director, Center for the Art of East Asia; Consulting Curator, Smart Museum of Art
“Outdoor Exhibitions in Beijing, 1979”
Discussant: Paola Iovene, Associate Professor in Chinese Literature, EALC
Location: Room TBD, Cochrane Woods Art Center
★Co-Sponsored by Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia Workshop★

May 12th, Friday (in-person), 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Ethan Waddell, Ph.D. Candidate, EALC
“Songs to Turn the Tide: Mobilizing Music from the Korean War”
Discussant: Alex Murphy, Visiting Assistance Professor of Japanese, Kenyon College
Location: Wieboldt 408

May 19th, Friday (in-person), 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Alia Goehr, Teaching Fellow, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities
“The Therapeutic Text: Jin Shengtan’s Romance of the Western Chamber Commentary”
Discussant: Pauline Lee, Associate Professor of Chinese Religions and Cultures, Saint Louis University
Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)


Please feel free to contact Yuwei (ywzhou@uchicago.edu) and Elvin (emeng@uchicago.edu) with any questions you might have, and we look forward to seeing you at APEA this winter!

03/03 Yueling Ji

Ph.D. Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations

“Wind from the East: Stylistics in Mao Zedong’s Yan’an Talks

Time: Friday, March 3, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Location:  Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

Ma Hezhi (fl. c. 1131-1162). Illustrations to the Odes of Chen 陳風圖. Date unknown. Handscroll, Ink and colors on silk. (The British Museum, London, UK). https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/image/134893001.

Abstract: This chapter studies Mao Zedong’s theory and criticism of writing style during the Yan’an Rectification Movement in 1942. The Rectification Movement is literally called, in Chinese, “the rectification of the winds.” The word “wind,” which means “style,” originates from classical Chinese literary thought and is a core concept in classical theories of writing style. By highlighting Mao’s use of “wind” and tracing its etymology, this chapter argues that classical poetics continued to inform literary theory in the socialist era. Meanwhile, I also connect Chinese socialist literary theory to Soviet political thought of the early Stalinist period, because concepts such as “style of work” and “formalism” were first discussed in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and spread to China in the next two decades. By uncovering these various channels of influence, I argue that the concept of style occupies a central position in the intellectual history of socialist China.

Presenter: Yueling Ji is a Ph.D. candidate in EALC and a dissertation completion residential fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities. Her dissertation, A History of Style: Literary Criticism in Cold War China, studies the history and methodology of Chinese literary criticism with the aim of understanding the concept of “style” in literature. More broadly, she has also studied gender, sexuality, Sino-Soviet relations, and modern writing about ancient China.

Respondent: Qiyu Yang is a Ph.D. student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His research concerns the intersection between early Chinese poetics and historiography, with a focus on how ancient Chinese classical commentators utilized the Classic of Poetry to construct their ideal past. Furthermore, he is interested in how a poetic past could be taken as a battlefield for different understandings of humanity.

02/17 Dahye Kim

Assistant Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures, Northwestern University

“Korean Writing in the Age of Multilingual Word Processing:
A History of the Non-Linear Alphabet and the Cultural Technique of Writing

Time: Friday, February 17, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Location:  Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

★Co-Sponsored by Digital Media Workshop★

Abstract: In 2016, South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyoan reflected that hangul “has been the foundation of the country as an IT powerhouse.” Claiming that the almost 500-year-old script of hangul was “well suited for the age of information,” the Prime Minister emphasized that the “glorious national culture” has prospered based on this “ingenious and scientific” national script. He was right that the information boom of the 1980s and 1990s played a crucial role in the final abolishment of the Chinese script and the ascendance of hangul in South Korea. But contrary to the Prime Minister’s claim, the non-Western alphabet of hangul posed various technological difficulties whenever new information technology appeared, and the technology of the digital computer was no exception. But the crisis that the Korean writing system encountered cannot be properly grasped based on Thomas Mullaney’s criticism of the “false universalism” where “all alphabets and syllabaries against the one major world script that is neither: character-based Chinese writing.” Nor can it be fully grasped with Yurou Zhong’s criticism of Western phonocentrism. Although, she is correct to cite Walter Ong’s observation that there have been “many scripts but only one alphabet” as she challenges the hidden assumption of the alphabetic universalism where the Roman-Latin alphabet occupies the top floor of the “grammatological hierarchy.” Focusing on the history of the 1980s, I argue that the central problem that the Korean and East Asian writing system at large faced was rather closely related to “the principle of linearity.” This was one of the two major theoretical principles undergirding the Geneva school of linguistics and what various “Western” information technologies have been long founded upon even before Saussure’s theorization. A marginal/borderline object in my analysis will be how phonemes in the Korean alphabet do not only combine with one another linearly, but both vertically and horizontally much like the Chinese script. 

Presenter: Dahye Kim is an assistant professor of Asian languages and cultures at Northwestern University. Her research interests include modern Korean literature and media culture, critical approaches to media history, and the cultural dimensions of communication technologies in Korea. She is especially interested in changing the significance and signification of literature and literacy in the evolving media studies landscape.

Respondent: Thomas Lamarre is a scholar of media, cinema and animation, intellectual history, and material culture, with projects ranging from the communication networks of 9th century Japan (Uncovering Heian Japan: An Archaeology of Sensation and Inscription, 2000), to silent cinema and the global imaginary (Shadows on the Screen: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō on Cinema and Oriental Aesthetics, 2005), animation technologies (The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, 2009) and on television infrastructures and media ecology (The Anime Ecology: A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media, 2018).

02/10 Emily Jungmin Yoon

Post-doctoral Scholar, EALC

Mock Job Talk

“Ko Chŏng-hŭi’s Enclosed Reading: (Re)Constructing History and Sisterhood for Feminist Poetic Creation

Time: Friday, February 10, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Zoom link: https://uchicago.zoom.us/j/96867343582?pwd=UkNnbWxBOXFkOHQ2eHN5bHEzV3QvUT09

Abstract: This presentation investigates the feminist writing of Ko Chŏng-hŭi, a vocal and prominent feminist South Korean poet most active in the mid-1980s to her sudden death in 1991. It delves into Ko’s authorial stance and radical feminist imperative to produce poems that are specifically about, for, or by Korean women. Publishing poetry was one part of her larger literary and feminist activism, as Ko was also a critic, newspaper editor, and public speaker. However, poetry was the primary space in which she explored the ways in which she could enact a revision/re-vision of history through women’s voices. Thus, this presentation examines Ko’s various poetic strategies to 1) excavate and erect women’s literature and literary culture against the patriarchal domain of the Korean literary establishment, and 2) invoke pan-Asian feminist solidarity across the countries “victimized” by imperialism and capitalism. The latter project demonstrates that Ko was starting to add another intersectional dimension, ethnicity, to her class- and gender-conscious poetry, and to meditate on her Korean woman’s identity outside of the Korean context.

Presenter: Emily Jungmin Yoon is the Abigail Rebecca Cohen Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations in 2022. As a poet, Yoon has published collections A Cruelty Special to Our Species (Ecco|HarperCollins, 2018) and Ordinary Misfortunes (Tupelo Press, 2017). She also serves as the Poetry Editor for The Margins, the digital magazine of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

MAPH Research Embarkment

Presenters: Simon Lenoe, Amber Qi, Lucia Wang, Jinhee Kim, Rena Zhang
Discussants: Danlin Zhang, Nick Ogonek, Yeti Kang, Ethan Waddell, Ellen Larson

Time: Friday, January 26, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

Abstract: How does one embark upon a research project? What are the means, ways, and parameters by which one defines and engages with an object of study, especially within the realm of area studies? In what way should one go about making their research legible to other scholars across geographical regions and disciplinary boundaries? This thesis proposal workshop is designed for MAPH students working on projects related to East Asian area studies. Our goals are to provide a space for students to discuss their work while it is still at a conceptual stage, to facilitate an opportunity to share projects which engage with the themes of APEA, and to encourage collaborative feedback from APEA’s regular attendees, including other graduate students and professors across various disciplines and specialties related to East Asia.