10/6: Hae Uk Ko

Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences

“Looking at Mirror Images: The Korean Plight to Find its Place in a New World”

Time: Thursday, October 6, 4:00-5:30pm CT

Location: Social Science Research Building Franklin Room

★Co-Sponsored by East Asia: Transregional Histories (EATRH) workshop★

Please note the unusual meeting time and location!

Abstract: “Looking at Mirror Images” departs from the practice of studying Korea’s relationship with China, its past suzerain; Japan, its colonizer; and America, the leader of the alliance; and analyzes Korea’s imitation of Belgium and perception of Ireland to understand its struggle against colonization. “Looking at Mirror Images” first seeks to explain how Koreans came to emulate Belgium when they were forcibly incorporated into an imperial world order. As the Sino-sphere became dishevelled with the intrusion of the West in the 19th century, Koreans sought to find their place in unfamiliar waters. Korean leaders’ attempt to harness international law to pursue a Belgian model of neutrality was eventually futile. Once colonized, both Koreans and Japanese looked at different phases of British Ireland as role models that Korea should aim to become like. An analysis of the Korean project of emulating Belgian neutrality prior to colonization and Korean thoughts on Ireland, both the Ireland that Unionists envisioned and the Ireland that the Sinn Fein envisioned, after colonization, will offer insights into Korea’s unsuccessful struggle to maintain sovereignty.

Presenter: Hae Uk. Ko is a graduate of the MAPSS program at the University of Chicago. His thesis examined the role that perception of the unfamiliar played in decision-making in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century.

Respondent: Graeme R. Reynolds is a cultural and intellectual historian of early modern Korea with interests in the production and circulation of knowledge, the history of the book, and historiography. He is currently working on a book examining the production, circulation, reception of official histories in the Chosŏn dynasty. He holds a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University.

Autumn 2022 Schedule

Dear colleagues, faculty members, and friends,

The Arts and Politics of East Asia Workshop (APEA) is pleased to announce our Autumn 2022 schedule. The workshop will meet from 3:00-5:00pm in the Autumn 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 to receive those emails.

Autumn 2022 Schedule

October 6th, Thursday (in-person), 4:00–5:30 p.m.
Hae Uk Ko, the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences
“Looking at Mirror Images: The Korean Plight to Find its Place in a New World”
Discussant: Graeme Reynolds, Instructor in History
Location: Social Science Research Building Franklin Room
★Co-Sponsored by East Asia: Transregional Histories (EATRH) workshop★

November 11th, Friday (in-person), 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Yanqing Shen, the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities
“The Death of a Chinese Poet: Lyricism, Voice, and Sociality in Yu Dafu’s ‘Sinking’”
Discussant: Paola Iovene, Associate Professor in Chinese Literature, EALC
Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

November 18th, Friday (online), 6:00–8:00 p.m.
Anthony Stott, Ph.D. Candidate, EALC & Comparative Literature
“Context after the West Shinjuku Exit Plaza Incident: Toward an Archipelagic Reimagining of Monumental Urban Space in the Theory and Design of Isozaki Arata”
Discussant: Zhiyan Yang, Ph.D. Candidate, Art History
★Co-Sponsored by Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia (VMPEA) workshop★

December 2nd, Friday (in-person), 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Paola Iovene, Associate Professor in Chinese Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations
“Reading Beyond Books: Airing Lu Yao”
Discussant: Siting Jiang, Ph.D. Candidate, EALC and Neil Verma, Assistant Professor of Sound Studies, Radio/TV/Film, Northwestern University
Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)
★Co-Sponsored by Sound and Society workshop★

December 9th, Friday (in-person), 2:30–4:30 p.m.
Elvin Meng, Ph.D. Student, EALC & Comparative Literature
“From the History of the Book to the History of Reading (Multilingually): An Appreciation of Traces”
Discussant: Nan Z. Da, Associate Professor, English & East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Notre Dame
Location: The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center Classroom


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 fall!

6/3: Yueling Ji

PhD Candidate, EALC

“Can style be described with adjectives of mood?”

Time: Friday, June 3, 3-5pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: 


Left: C. T. Hsia’s drawing of book cover, in letter to brother T. A., March 6, 1961

Right: Cover of first edition of A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, Yale UP, 1961

Abstract: “Style” is an elusive concept in literary studies, encompassing a wide range of textual characteristics and critical practices. One common way for a reader to engage with literary style is to describe their impression of a text with adjectives, for example, to call the text “bleak,” “stirring,” “delightful,” or “decorous,” and so on. But what is the nature of these “feeling words” that describe style? How do they relate to the formal characteristics of the text, and how do they relate to the reader who is expressing their opinion? This chapter explores these questions with well-known examples from the history of Chinese literary criticism. In particular, I discuss the influences of classical Chinese poetics and Anglo-American New Criticism on a few notable critics of modern Chinese literature active during the Cold War period.

Presenter: Yueling Ji is a PhD candidate in modern Chinese literature. Her dissertation is a study of the history and methodology of Chinese literary criticism, focusing on the concept of style. She also writes about China-Russia relations, Marxism, and gender/sexuality theories.

Respondent: Celia Xu is a Ph.D. candidate in the comparative literature department at UChicago. She works on modern and contemporary poetry in China and the U.S., with a particular interest in the interaction between science and poetry.

5/27 Hanna Pickwell

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

A flavor of human feeling: Affectivities of outmoded things in Beijing

Time: Friday, May 27, 3-5pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: 


Abstract: Old furniture, toys, décor, and electronics no longer have a use or fit the aesthetic regime of today’s Beijing, and yet my interlocutors – senior citizens in Beijing’s old city – are not planning to dispose of them. These old everyday things, between possession and junk, accumulate in physically liminal spaces around their people’s homes – in corners, stairwells, and courtyards and evoke ambiguous feelings. Aging residents of one Beijing neighborhood have donated many such objects to a community center, where things that were once adjacent to junk became a collection that is essential to the center’s warm atmosphere and has wide appeal beyond the neighborhood. This chapter takes up the question: to what extent, and in what ways, did the materiality of the GLR and its collection shape the sociality that unfolded there? It argues that material things and spaces act as durable loci, anchors for the for the accretion of experiences and traces that can be activated through memory and imagination and experienced as atmosphere or, the emic term, “flavor.”

Presenter: Hanna Pickwell is a PhD candidate in the anthropology department at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation research focuses on the social efficacies and regimes of value of used commodities in China.

Discussant: Lilian Kong is a PhD student at the University of Chicago, enrolled in the East Asian Literature and Civilizations + Cinema and Media Studies joint program. She studies contemporary Chinese film and media, with research experience in healing media, media atmospheres, media ecology, and global vernacular. 

5/20 Jue Hou

PhD Candidate, Social Thought & Comparative Literature

“Tenkō and the Invention of the Quotidian Subject: Parapolitics and the I-Novel Form from Kobayashi Takiji to Nakano Shigeharu

Time: Friday, May 20, 3-5pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: 



Friends and family assemble to mourn Kobayashi Takiji (1903-1933) after his death by torture at the hands of the Tokkō police.

Nakano Shigeharu (1902-1979) and family.

Abstract: This chapter probes the intersection between the I-novel (shishōsetsu) and Japan’s proletarian literature, especially at the latter’s moment of crisis during what was known as “tenkō,” or the (largely coerced) renunciation of the left by Japanese intellectuals in the 1930s. A turning point marked by intense political setbacks and ideological shifts, the turbulent decade witnessed an unexpected convergence between Japanese Marxism and the I-novel form, which the former had previously condemned for its preoccupation with quotidian life and, supposedly, disinterest in public politics. Tracing the shifting image of the “seikatsusha,” or the quotidian “agent of living,” from Kobayashi Takiji’s Tō seikatsusha (Life of a Party Member, 1933) to Nakano Shigeharu’s “Mura no ie” (“House in the Village”, 1935), I examine how Japan’s radically changing political conditions enabled and, indeed, necessitated alternative ways of thinking and acting through literature. Rather than merely a strategic “retreat” from overtly political themes, I argue, the I-novel form’s shift back-and-forth between personal interiority and public politics (or its increasing inaccessibility) makes possible new modes of resistance through constructing the parapolitical figure of the seikatsusha who inhabits a sphere of excess that defies inclusion in the realm of politics. Beginning with Kobayashi’s attempt to re-appropriate the “reactionary” I-novel by engaging the quotidian seikatsusha only to stage its radical erasure in the service of the revolutionary end, I then examine Nakano’s radically different approach to everyday life. This in effect signals a reorientation of the Japanese Marxist movement whose indulgence in its own theoretical integrity, as Yoshimoto Takaaki argues, had heretofore translated into failures to confront Japan’s ancien régime in the face at ground level. How does the rise of the I-novel, in the form of “tenkō literature,” shed light on this moment of sea change? How might one bring into dialogue the history of a literary form and that of political ruptures? What epistemological possibilities do the I-novel’s (para-)political quotidian subject open up for the Japanese left and for our own era? These are among the questions that I seek to address.

Presenter: Jue Hou is a joint degree PhD Candidate in Social Thought and Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on East Asian and European literary modernisms and modernity. He is writing a dissertation on the “I-novel” and global confessional literature with a focus on the period between the late 1920s and the early postwar years.

Discussant: Danlin Zhang is a third-year PhD student in EALC. His research explores the entanglement between modern Japanese literature, Western science and imperialism. He is also interested in modern Japanese poetry and popular culture.