2/26 Jiayi Chen

Ph.D. Candidate, EALC

“Theorizing ‘Youxi’: Virtual Theatricality and Reading the Journey to the West”

Time: Friday, January 29th, 3-5 pm

Zoom Registration: https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcpc-6pqzgrE9xhrGGpDKOFjM4eIOxvNv88

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:

This paper discusses the notion of “virtual theatricality” as a perspective to understand the reading experience of the sixteenth-century novel Journey to the West. The scene of the guessing game in Chapter 46 will be my start point. On one hand, it points to the interplay between the concept of hiddenness and transformation. On the other hand, it is relevant to the huanxi 幻戏 performance, a prototype of modern magic tricks, that oscillated between deception and divine acts while engaging the bodily experiences of the performers and the spectators. I use “theatricality” instead of “theater” to call attention to the participatory spectatorship/readership not confined to the medium of theater per se. Meanwhile, in lieu of a preconditioned line between reality and illusion, “virtual” suggests the agency of the spectator/reader to draw such a boundary (or rather a continuum). By looking closely at some episodes in the novel and its rich commentaries, I show how “virtual theatricality” suggests that the text of the novel embodies openness and transforming possibilities by inviting the reader to experience its textual virtuality. In so doing, I also try to offer an interpretation of youxi (literally means roam and play) which is so closely related to the Journey to the West. 
Jiayi Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, with a concentration on early modern Chinese literature. Her dissertation studies the interplay between games and reading experience in China from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. She also holds broader interests in the practices and representations of storytelling, text-image relations, and Sino-Japanese cultural exchange.
Please contact Jiayi Zhu (jiayizhu@uchicago.edu) and Sophia Walker (scwalker2@uchicago.edu) if you have any questions or concerns.
Jiayi and Sophia, Co-coordinators, Art and Politics of East Asia Workshop


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