Ph.D. Candidate, EALC
Whistling as Poetic Expression in Seventeenth-Century China
Time: Friday, April 23, 3-5 pm CT
Discussant: Jiayi Chen, Ph.D. Candidate, EALC
For our first meeting of spring quarter, the Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Yiren Zheng (Ph.D. Candidate, EALC), who will present her paper, “Impossible Echo: Whistling as Poetic Expression in Seventeenth-Century China.” She summarizes her paper as follows:
This paper examines a turning point in the Chinese literary history of whistling that took place during the seventeenth century. Whistling, once sonorously reverberating in social spaces during the Six Dynasties, gradually disappeared as a sound. It continued to thrive as a poetic trope whose sonic implication became tenuous at best. During the seventeenth century, a number of authors, including Pan Zhiheng (1556-1622) and Chen Ding (1650-?), imagined whistling as a sound immediately audible in their own times despite the fact that whistling had been a lost sound for centuries. For example, Pan portrays the singing of certain courtesans as whistling in a number of prose essays; Chen depicts whistling as an apocalyptic event (alluding to the fall of the Ming dynasty) that viscerally disturbs not only the listeners but also the whistler in a literary biography entitled “Biography of the Old Whistler.” Collectively, these authors made a noteworthy intervention in the literary imagination of whistling by employing the method of simulation: presenting an imaginary scenario as if it was the lived reality while blurring the boundary between simulated reality and actual reality. This paper argues that the simulated whistling offers a space for these authors to address real-world concerns that are otherwise repressed or unacknowledged.
This paper is the main part of one of my dissertation chapters. The chapter also observes how these seventeenth-century writings enrich pre-modern Chinese discourse on whistling and in turn our understanding of poetics. During the Six Dynasties, the heyday of whistling as a sonic art, whistling was understood as a subversive poetics where speech is displaced by sound and meaning-making displaced by semantically free echoing. Starting from the fourteenth century, writers began to consider whistling as a nonverbal means of expressing one’s interiority, which is parallel to speech. The seventeenth-century depictions of whistling found a balance between using whistling to resist speech and language and assimilating whistling into the linguistic order. By tracing the discourses with which these seventeenth-century writings on whistling are implicitly in dialogue, this chapter ponders what it seventeenth-century authors gained by animating an absent sound.
Yiren Zheng is currently finishing her dissertation as a residential fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities and a Ph.D. candidate in the East Asian Languages and Civilizations at University of Chicago. Her dissertation explores several extralinguistic forms of communication, including whistling and talking birds, and theoretical insights they inspired in seventeenth-century literary texts written in classical Chinese. Her journal article, “Listening Askance with a Seventeenth-Century Chinese Acousmatic Voice,” has recently appeared in Parallax.
Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
Systemic Paranoia: Media Intensification in Japan
Time: Friday, March 12, 3-5 pm CT
Discussant: Sophia Walker, Ph.D. Student, EALC and CMS
The Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Dr. Alexander Zahlten (Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University) who will present his paper, “Systemic Paranoia: Media Intensification in Japan.” He summarizes his paper as follows:
This paper understands the occult boom – a media phenomenon in Japan stretching from the 1970s to the 1990s – as a vernacular media theory that expresses, commodifies, and frames the anxieties and cognitive responses to the pressures of intensifying media connectivity. The occult boom is also a political response to the perceived failure of the Japanese left in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and an attempt to formulate a different strategy, and to understand the political challenges differently. The occult boom also can be understood as a fundamentally paranoid theory that attempts to make sense of the new connective totality, but leads into a logic of catastrophe, with in turn catastrophic consequences in the 1990s.
Alexander Zahlten is professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. His work focuses on popular film and media in Japan and East Asia from the 1960s to today. His publications include the co-edited volume Media Theory in Japan (Duke University Press, 2017, with Marc Steinberg) and the book The End of Japanese Cinema (Duke University Press, 2017). He is especially interested in the dynamics of intensified media ecologies, and his recent work touches on topics such as the relationship of electricity and film or ‘amateur’ film and media production. Between 2002 and 2010 he was program director for Nippon Connection Film Festival, the largest festival for film from Japan.
Ph.D. Candidate, EALC
Enchantment of Politics, Poetics of Enchantment
Time: Friday, March, 3-5 pm CT
Zoom Registration: https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0lduCtrj4oGNCA5_qiFdBFa2CJ8ALDwof-
Discussant: Anthony Stott, Ph.D. Student, EALC/Comparative Literature
The Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Alex Murphy (Ph.D. Candidate, EALC), who will present his dissertation chapter, “Enchantment of Politics, Poetics of Enchantment.” He summarizes his chapter as follows:
This chapter concerns the advent of radio poetry in interwar Japan, and its role in the aural poeisis of public life at the outset of the Shōwa period. Following the 1923 Kantō earthquake, a prominent consortium of poets turned to oral recitation in order to channel the turbulent rhythms and sonorities of social life that seemed so far to elude expression in print, and to the emergent technology of radio broadcast as a means of harmonizing these disparate intensities toward a communal sense of “public resonance.” In so doing, however, the poets of this growing recitation movement had also to reckon with the politics involved in shaping the radio’s emergent listening public, especially as the escalation of acclamatory social movements signaled a more polyphonous body politic than the state was willing to accommodate. What the movement’s advocates proposed, then, was a mode of recitation that might, through various formal refinements, convey the impression of an informal, unadorned poetic voice—one shorn of embellishment, polished down to its most genuine and universal essence. By the same token, however, I argue that this mode of recitation served thereby to naturalize, or enchant a narrower political vision of post-quake public life by staging the state’s attenuations of audible speech—the filtration of dissent, opacity, or innuendo—as steps toward a radiogenic ideal of clarity, neutrality, and noiseless transmission.
Alex Murphy is a PhD candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, focusing on modern Japanese literature and cultural history. His dissertation, entitled “What the Ear Sees,” deals with performance, sound media, and the politics of the voice in interwar Japan.
Ph.D. Candidate, EALC
“Theorizing ‘Youxi’: Virtual Theatricality and Reading the Journey to the West”
Time: Friday, January 29th, 3-5 pm
Discussant: Alia Breitwieser Goehr (Ph.D. Candidate, Comparative Literature)
The Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Jiayi Chen (Ph.D. Candidate, EALC), who will present her paper, “Theorizing ‘Youxi’: Virtual Theatricality and Reading the Journey to the West”. She summarizes the paper as follows:
Chinese director of documentary “We Were SMART” (杀马特我爱你 shāmǎtè wǒ ài nǐ)
Time: Friday, February 12th, 7-9 pm CST
The Chinese word 杀马特 (Shamate, written as SMART in the film’s English version) is a homophonic appropriation of the English word “smart.” Starting in the 2000s, this term has appeared on the Chinese Internet, labeling a form of fashion with its iconic hairstyle, makeup, and attire. Documentary We Were SMART looks into the lives of people who are associated with SMART, namely, young factory workers migrated from rural areas to the periphery of urban spaces. In addition to in-depth conversations with these people, the film also includes footage shot by them, offering an insider’s view of SMART’s life stories.
Li Yifan is a documentary filmmaker and artist in China. He teaches at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. His other works include “Chronicle of Longwang: A Year in the Life of a Chinese Village” (乡村档案：龙王村2006影像文件) and “Before the Flood” (淹没).
This event is co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies with generous support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.