3/18 Xingming Wang

PhD student, Comparative Literature, Rutgers University

“Beyond Primitive Passion: Lu Xun’s Coal Narrative and Anthropocene Awareness”

Time: Friday, Mar 18, 3-5 pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMude2vpj8vE9bYN25bqDa_AFduscXdNd59

The Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Xingming Wang (PhD student, Comparative Literature, Rutgers University), who will be presenting a draft of his paper, “Beyond Primitive Passion: Lu Xun’s Coal Narrative and Anthropocene Awareness”. Professor Paola Iovene (EALC, University of Chicago) will offer a response.


Situated at the crossroads of energy humanities and modern Chinese literature, this paper studies an iconic figure whose life epitomizes the highest achievement in both fields. Lu Xun is the father of modern Chinese literature as well as a pioneer of modern Chinese geology. Whereas both his geological and literary works draw substantial attention, the connection between the two fields remains unexplored. Do Lu Xun’s geological and mineralogical outlooks have any impact on his literary works? To answer this question, this paper combs through Lu Xun’s coal narrative, exhibiting that his enthusiasm for coal does not dissipate after the publication of “A Brief Sketch of Chinese Geology” and Records of Chinese Mineral Resources. Instead, coal takes on rhetorical and allegorical functions in his later writing, revealing his concerns about resource depletion and environmental disaster, which should be regarded as a prescient Anthropocene awareness. A close reading of Lu Xun’s coal narrative also displays a shifting emotional pattern. His nationalist passion for developing the coal industry is complicated by distress over ecological degradation and unsustainable development. This paper thus extends Rey Chow’s discussion of Lu Xun’s “primitive passion” by incorporating his ecological-related structures of feeling that are future-oriented and anticipate an energy transition.

Presenter: Xingming Wang is a Ph.D. student in the Comparative Literature Program at Rutgers University. His research interests reside in modern and contemporary Chinese literature, environmental humanities, energy humanities, animal studies, memory and trauma studies. He is preparing for a dissertation project on “Coal Literature and Chinese Modernity.”

Discussant: Paola Iovene is Associate Professor in Chinese Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, the University of Chicago.


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