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!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *