Corey Byrnes

Duan Jianyu, Beautiful Dream #7, 2008

Corey Byrnes (Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Literature in the Asian Languages and Cultures Department, Northwestern University)
“Defining the Chinese Landscape of Desolation in Teaching and Research”
Tuesday, May 1st, 5:00pm-7:00pm in the Cochrane-Woods Art Center, Room 157
Discussant: Pao-chen Tang (PhD Student, Cinema and Media Studies & EALC)
This event is co-sponsored with the Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia Workshop and sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies with support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the United States Department of Education.

Please join us Tuesday (5/1) from 5:00pm-7:00pm as we host Professor Corey Byrnes, Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Literature at Northwestern University. He will present an essay in progress as well as two related syllabi. The following workshop discussion will be an opportunity not only to offer feedback on the essay, but also to address the challenges of combining research and teaching and designing a syllabus based upon one’s research interests. We look forward to the continuation of discussion after the workshop at the catered dinner which will follow.

Professor Byrnes summarizes his essay as follows:

This joint APEA-VMPEA workshop will center on three related documents: an essay in progress entitled “Landscapes of Desolation” and two syllabi for a course with the same name. The essay is part of a broader attempt to reconsider the role of landscape and “tradition” in the context of environmentally conscious visual and literary culture representing Mainland China (mostly). In general, I am interested in how landscape has come to function as both a privileged way to represent environmental problems in China and also a practical ecocritical mode designed to move people and change behaviors. More specifically, in this essay I consider how specific art historical and cultural influences are used in three interconnected “modes” (the documentary, the trompe l’oeil and the fantastical) of what I am calling the “landscape of desolation” to support this practical ecocritical function. The essay extends some of the ideas I explore in my forthcoming book, Fixing Landscape: A Techno-Poetic History of China’s Three Gorges (Columbia, December 2018), but it emerges more directly from my experiences teaching an upper division seminar on literary and visual responses to environmental degradation in China and Taiwan. For the seminar meeting, I look forward to discussing both the article and also my experience in moving between teaching and researching. As you will see, there is significant overlap between the course materials and the primary and secondary sources I use in the article. The earliest version of this article predates these courses, though the current version really emerged out of my experiences teaching this seminar in the winter of 2016 and again in the winter of 2018.

The paper is available directly below, or at this link. If you have not received the password, or have questions about accessibility, please feel free to contact Helina Mazza-Hilway ( or Susan Su (


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