12/2: Paola Iovene

Associate Professor, East Asian Languages & Civilizations

“Reading Beyond Books: Radio Fiction Series and Lu Yao’s Ordinary World

Time: Friday, December 2, 3:00-5:00pm CT

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

★Co-Sponsored by Sound and Society workshop★

Abstract: Largely unappreciated by critics when its first volume came out in 1986, Lu Yao’s novel Ordinary World (Pingfan de shijie) was awarded the Mao Dun literary prize in 1991 and went on to become one of the most beloved works of contemporary Chinese fiction. Today, Lu Yao himself epitomizes the rural other rejected by urbanites, the common readers’ writer whose aesthetics are staunchly antithetical to those of academic elites, and ultimately a martyr who was killed by his writing.

While no single factor alone can account for the multifaceted development of Lu Yao’s persona and the extraordinary success of his work, neither might have been possible without the radio program Fiction Series (Xiaoshuo lianbo), which broadcast Ordinary World several times. It would be an overstatement to say that the radio created the author. Nonetheless, the radio narrator Li Yemo profoundly shaped Ordinary World’s reception, bringing Lu Yao’s work to many more readers than books alone would have reached, to the point that Li’s voice came to be perceived as that of Lu Yao himself. How exactly this happened is the main question addressed by this chapter.

The “talking books” broadcast by Fiction Series, I suggest, were an important component of socialist Chinese literary culture, facilitating a “reading situation” that differed both from academic criticism and from leisure reading in print and other visual media. The series played a considerable role well into the late 1990s, offering a different angle from which to reconsider the enduring appeal of realist modes of writing and non-elite forms of literary appreciation.

Does listening to a fiction broadcast constitute a reading act, which in the context of the volume where this essay will appear is defined as the “interaction of individuals (or groups of individuals) with text through which they generate meaning from texts” (Henningsen 2021)? Proposing the notion of “model reading-listening situation,” this chapter aims to rethink reading as a collaborative and multisensorial process that generates feelings and actions, but no interpretations.

Presenter: Dr. Paola Iovene is an associate professor of modern Chinese Literature in the department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Tales of Futures Past: Anticipation and the Ends of Literature in Contemporary China (2014) and a co-editor of Sound Alignments: Popular Music in Asia’s Cold Wars (2021).

Respondents: Siting Jiang is a PhD student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at University of Chicago. Her research interests include modern Chinese literature, sound studies and cultural studies. Dr. Neil Verma is Assistant Professor of Sound Studies at Northwestern University. His books include Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics and American Radio Drama (2012), and the edited anthologies Anatomy of Sound: Norman Corwin (2016) and Media Authorship and Indian Sound Cultures, Indian Sound Citizenship (2020).

11/18: Anthony Stott

PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages & Civilizations and Comparative Literature

“Context After the End of Monumental Public Space: Toward an Archipelagic Reimagining of Urban Resistance in the Theory and Design of Isozaki Arata”

Time: Friday, November 18, 6:00-8:00pm CT

Zoom Link: https://uchicago.zoom.us/j/99126706613?pwd=WUhpT1JxQjR2bHB3Zjd5VFIzNlVWZz09

★Co-Sponsored by Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia workshop★

Please note the unusual meeting time!

Jacques Derrida questioning Isozaki Arata and Asada Akira after Isozaki and Asada’s joint-presentation at the Anyone conference on May 11, 1991.

Abstract: The expulsion of protestors from Shinjuku Station West Exit Plaza in 1969 conventionally marks the end of monumental public space as a site for urban protests in Japan. Departing from this moment, this chapter explores the wanderings of the architect and theorist Isozaki Arata (1931–) in search of new sites for urban resistance. Isozaki builds on his earlier work on the environment and the cybernetic city to theorize this urban resistance as an alternative context that constructively short circuits the urban network, and he terms this “extra-context.” Putting into dialogue scholarship from across media studies, architectural theory, and urban history, I contend that Isozaki adopts extra-context not only to disrupt the unrestrained and homogenizing flows of information networks under globalization but also to oppose a transparency between built space and the environment as epitomized in imperialist architectural projects of the interwar period. Drawing on Isozaki’s writings in “Japanese-ness” in Architecture (Kenchiku ni okerunihonteki na mono,” 2003; first partially serialized in Critical Space between 1998 and 2000) and especially his extensive collaborations with the critic Asada Akira (1957–), I furthermore show how tracing Isozaki’s design via extra-context discloses a shift in his approach—from the eclectic citation of global forms in projects of the 1980s like Tsukuba Center, to the archipelagically derived performance halls of the 1990s. I thus aim to expand the critical possibilities of Isozaki’s work by attending to how the tethering of extra-context to the archipelagic resonates with and defies ecocriticism and other related discourses that explore the relation between ocean and media.

Presenter: Anthony Stott is a PhD candidate in East Asian Languages & Civilizations and Comparative Literature who specializes in contemporary Japanese literature, media, and thought. His dissertation considers formations of artists and intellectuals around the preeminent Japanese-language journal of theory and criticism Critical Space (Hihyō kūkan, 1991–2002) through the lens of critique and its limits.

Respondent: Zhiyan Yang is a doctoral candidate specializing in the history of modern and contemporary East Asian Architecture. He is currently completing a dissertation on post-socialist architecture through the lenses of architectural media and cultural production, including exhibitions, journals, history surveys and its intersection with contemporary visual culture and art. He received his BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2013 and MA from the University of Chicago in 2015. Zhiyan served as a researcher and overseas liaison of the Contemporary Chinese Art Yearbook Project spearheaded by Peking University and the University of Chicago since 2015. He has also previously interned at Xu Bing Studio in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.

11/11: Yanqing Shen

Master of Arts Program in the Humanities

“Failure of China, Failure of Poetry: Lyricism and Parody in Yu Dafu’s ‘Sinking'”

Time: Friday, November 11, 3:00-5:00pm CT

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

Abstract: In this paper, I provide a new, cross-generic reading of Yu Dafu’s short story “Sinking” (1921) from the angle of lyricism (shuqing 抒情). Though the text has been well studied as one of the foundational texts of modern Chinese literature, few critics have paid attention to the poet-persona of the protagonist, who not only reads Wordsworth and Heine but also composes Classical Chinese verse. Emphasizing the vocality, sociality, and theatricality of Yu’s lyricism, I arrive back again at the short story’s political allegory to show how the Chinese protagonist’s sexual and national struggles in Japan are encapsulated within the failure of his poetic performance in the penultimate brothel scene. The failure, first and foremost, is that of China. Particularized into a national utterance and missing its cultural infrastructure, the protagonist’s lyrical voice ends up being reduced to the looked-down-upon sound of a foreign language drowned in the Japanese din. Yet the failure is also that of Sinitic poetry. By parodying (conscious or unconsciously) the traditional caizi 才子 (“talented scholar”) tropes, the scene exposes the obsolescence of poetry — its uselessness, hypocrisy, and effeteness. Simultaneously a lyrical tragedy and its parody, evoking sympathy alongside irony, the short story thus embeds the lyrical into the novelistic while destroying the former’s very foundations.

Presenter: Yanqing Shen is a second-year MAPH-TLO student at the University of Chicago. The main focus of her work has been on early modern and modern Chinese literature alongside modern Japanese literature. Before coming to UChicago, she studied Comparative Literature (with English and Spanish) at Brown University.

Respondent: Paola Iovene is an associate professor of modern Chinese Literature in the department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Tales of Futures Past: Anticipation and the Ends of Literature in Contemporary China (2014) and a co-editor of Sound Alignments: Popular Music in Asia’s Cold Wars (2021).