Kyle Peters

Friday, January 27, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. in CEAS 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

Kyle Peters, “Artistic Production and the Making of the Artist: Applying Nishida Kitarō to Discussions of Authorship”

This Friday, please join us as we host Kyle Peters (PhD Student, EALC). Kyle summarizes his talk as follows:

Nishida Kitarō’s account of authorship and artistic production constitutes the focus of this essay. Its general thesis is that Nishida’s keen attention to the subjective qua objective, active qua intuitive intersection can be used to articulate a new, bidirectional account of artistic production. This essay uses this bidirectional account to critically engage with those unidirectionalinterpretive procedures grounded in the life or death of the Author; it takes up the former as it privileges the subjective conditions of production, reducing text and historical moment to a derivative of the Author and their life, and the latter as it privileges the objective conditions of production, subsuming text and author into a byproduct of the historical moment. In doing so, it claims that both of these procedures fail to adequately address the way in which artist, text, and historical moment inter-connect. Using Nishida’s thought to more fully consider this inter-connection, this essay brings in his attention to the above-mentioned subjective qua objective intersection in order to offer a bidirectional interpretation that is sensitive to the way in which artist, text, and historico-material conditions are produced in and through each other. More specifically, this essay uses Nishida’s thought to advance two central claims about authorship: first, that artistic agency is decentered across a manifold of positions in artistic production, and thus that artistic production is diffused across the continuum of subjectivity and objectivity; and second, that the artist’s subjectivity is creatively produced through the novelty of the work of art as it reallocates, reorganizes, and redeploys the historical body in the self-determination of the present moment.

The paper is available at this link. If you have not received the password for the post, or if you have concerns about accessibility, please feel free to contact Alex Murphy at

Paola Iovene

Friday, January 20, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. in CEAS 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

Paola Iovene, “Not by Dates Alone: The Spirit of the Peasant-Writer in Contemporary Yan’an”

Please join us this Friday for a presentation by Paola Iovene, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Professor Iovene summarizes her talk as follows:

If you’ve ever bought dates in China, chances are that they came from Yan’an. Red dates are indeed one of the major products of the area, particularly of Yanchuan county. The trees bear fruit in September, but fresh dates can be eaten well into mid-November, even as they get sun-dried in courtyards, on sidewalks, and outside of shops. Not by dates alone, however, could the region survive: oil, coal, and tourism are the resources that have been driving Yan’an out of poverty since the early 1990s. Called the “Mecca,” “cradle,” or “birthplace” of China’s Revolution because it served as the base of the Chinese Communist Party during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Yan’an is today a primary destination of “red tourism,” offering a variety of entertainments linked to China’s communist history: you can visit the cave dwellings where Mao Zedong and other communist leaders lived during the war, take pictures in buildings where seminal party congresses took place from the mid-1930s to the early 1940s, and watch revolutionary performances that restage those heroic times. Yan’an (and more generally the region of Shaanbei where it is located) is also famously rich in folk arts and crafts, such as drum performances, story-telling, and paper-cuts, the symbolism of which is often linked to archaic beliefs dating back to the ancient Chinese civilization that flourished along the Yellow River nearby. In a seemingly paradoxical fashion, then, Yan’an is being promoted both as a revolutionary site and as part of a larger region in which time-honored local traditions have survived momentous changes almost intact.


In the last few years, however, new tourist destinations are emerging in Yan’an that have little to do with revolutionary, folk, or ancient China. A couple of memorials are devoted to a writer named Lu Yao, who hailed from a destitute peasant family and died in 1992 at barely 42. Winner of the prestigious Mao Dun Literary Prize with his three-volume novel Ordinary World in 1991, Lu Yao was apparently much beloved by young readers from the provinces in the 1990s, but remains largely unheard of outside of China. Who is Lu Yao, and who is invested and investing in the museification of his life and works? The reinvention of Lu Yao as a peasant-writer, this paper will show, allows us to reexamine crucial issues at the core of contemporary Chinese literary history and culture: the legacy of Mao Zedong’s Yan’an Talks, divergent visions of the functions of literature and the tasks of the writer, notions of realism and modernism since the 1980s, the roles of museums and media (including online social media) in popularizing the art of fiction beyond the written page, the rural-urban divide in socialist China, and the different opportunities available to urban and rural youth today. Through the case of Lu Yao, we begin to learn what “Chinese contemporary literature” means at the provincial level and how it is imbricated with local political, social, and economic life, turning away from the capital and the wealthier costal cities that were the hotbed of literary experimentation over the last four decades. Lu Yao, “the son of the peasants, the backbone of the spirit of the yellow earth,” stands for a vision of literary writing that involves not so much inspiration, creativity, imagination, talent, or innovation, but rather relentless determination and endurance, and the hard labor of recording history at the cost of sacrificing all other aspects (and pleasures) of one’s life.

Please note that there will be no pre-circulated paper for this meeting. As always, food and drinks will be served. We look forward to your attendance!

Thomas Kelly


Wednesday, January 18, 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. in Wieboldt 301N

Thomas Kelly, “Writing and The Death of the Artisan in Late Imperial China”

Please join us on Wednesday (1/18) for a mock job talk by Thomas Kelly (PhD Candidate, EALC). Thomas summarizes his talk as follows:

Throughout the late imperial period, prominent writers imaginatively refabricated the deaths of artisans in poetry and prose. In this talk I examine the competing impulses behind this trope from the Northern Song to the late Ming. A recurring conceit emerges in such representations whereby the artisan’s apotheosis is contingent on his metamorphosis into the things he makes, so we read of inkmakers dissolving as ink cakes or soapstone cutters whose corpses become apotropaic rocks. I show how this aesthetic negation of the artisan became intimately linked to a newfound scholarly fascination with the substances and material devices that sustain the culture of writing. My central claim is that the act of narrating an artisan’s death proved critical to demarcating the boundary between literature and craft, and hence defining what it meant to be a writer.

Please note the special time and location of this event. Also note that there will be no pre-circulated paper for the talk. Food and refreshments will be served. We look forward to seeing you there!

Winter 2017 Schedule

1/18 (W) Mock Job Talk by Thomas Kelly (PhD Candidate, University of Chicago)
Title: Writing and the Death of the Artisan in Late Imperial China
12:00 – 1:30 PM
Location: Wieboldt 301N

1/20 (F) Presenter: Paola Iovene (Associate Professor of Chinese Literature, University of Chicago)
Title: Not by Dates Alone: Field Notes from Yan’an
3:00-5:00 PM
Location: CEAS Room 319

1/27 (F) Presenter: Kyle Peters (PhD Student, University of Chicago)
Title: Artistic Production and the Making of the Artist: Applying Nishida Kitarō to Discussions of Authorship
3:00 – 5:00 PM
Location: CEAS Room 319

2/10 (F) Presenter: Will Carroll (PhD Candidate, University of Chicago)
Title: The Filmography of Suzuki Seijun, as Viewed Retroactively in the Wake of the Suzuki Seijun Incident
3:00 – 5:00 PM
Location: CEAS Room 319

2/24 (F) Presenter: Aliz Horvath (PhD Candidate, University of Chicago)
Title: Confucianism as Method: Capturing the Mito Approach to Identity, Ritual, and History Writing in Early Modern Japan
3:00 – 5:00 PM
Location: CEAS Room 319

2/28 (T) East Asia by the Book! CEAS Author Talk: Norma Field, “For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution”
Presenters: Norma Field and Heather Bowen-Struyk
5:00 – 6:30 PM
Location: Seminary Coop Bookstore

3/10 (F) Sohye Kim (PhD Candidate, University of Chicago)
Title: The Divided Nation and Korean Diasporic Filmmakers’ Bittersweet Return
3:00 – 5:00 PM
Location: CEAS Room 319