5/19 Alia Goehr

 Teaching Fellow, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities University of Chicago

“The Therapeutic Text

Time: Friday, May 19, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Location: CEAS 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

Abstract: Jin Shengtan’s (1608–1661) Sixth Work of Genius (1656), his heavily edited and annotated edition of Wang Shifu’s wildly popular play Story of the Western Wing (late 13th c.), has long been appreciated from the standpoint of drama criticism. Literary scholarship’s traditional emphasis on genre, however, tends to relegate the multi-generic and extra-literary features of Jin’s commentary to the sidelines of interpretation or subordinate those features to drama as we know it. This is especially problematic given that Jin Shengtan’s commentary on the Western Wing painstakingly associates this work with other genres of writing and, moreover, with a variety of Buddhist texts, practices, and ideas. Taking Jin’s commentary on book 4, act 2, “Interrogating the Amorous” 拷艷 as a case study, this paper considers what it might look like to read the dramatic text not as a representative of its genre, but as an aesthetic form that affords certain forms of subjective experience. Jin Shengtan’s commentary intrusively reworks the form of this act to engage its latent therapeutic potential through association with other literary works as well as, I argue, the Buddhist practice of repentance (chanhui 懺悔). The outcome of Jin’s commentarial reworking is a hybrid textual form, neither purely literary nor strictly religious, which I describe as the therapeutic text, the potential of which is activated through the reader’s aesthetically mediated apprehension of a certain kind of embodied subjectivity, identifiable with the Buddhist truth-body. This hybrid textual category offers a new lens through which to examine Jin’s commentarial works. At the same time, proposing form as an alternative to genre invites new approaches to engaging with literary works in intellectually and artistically experimental, genre-bending contexts.

Presenter: Alia Goehr received her PhD from the Department of Comparative Literature in 2021 and is presently a Teaching Fellow in the MA Program in the Humanities. Starting in September of this year, she will be an assistant professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her work, beginning with a book project tentatively titled “Bodies of Truth,” looks beyond the secular humanist assumptions of modern literary studies to consider how Chinese literary works informed by diverse spiritual worldviews might open onto alternate understandings of embodied subjectivity.

Discussant: Pauline Lee is Associate Professor of Chinese Thought and Cultures at Saint Louis University, and co-director for the program Lived Religion in the Digital Age. She is the author of Li Zhi, Confucianism, and the Virtue of Desire (SUNY Press, 2012), and with Rivi Handler-Spitz and Haun Saussy, is co-editor of A Book to Burn and A Book to Keep (Hidden) (Columbia UP, 2016). Her present major project examines changing views of play in China.

05/12 Ethan Waddell

Ph.D. Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

“Divided Soundscapes and Collective Song: Listening to Military Songs in Literary Fiction of the Korean War

Time: Friday, May 12, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Location: Wieboldt 408

Please note the unusual location

Abstract: This chapter examines the use of military songs by Korean fiction writers to reconstruct the soundscapes of the Korean War (1950-1953). I define the act of collectively singing military songs as an active mode of reception. This receptive mode, I argue, was key both to the bodily materialization of national belonging in a divided nation and to the reproduction of ideological division. First, I use the novel T’aebaek Mountains (T’aebaek sanmaek, 1983-1989) by Cho Chŏng-nae to explore the pre-existing sonic conditions that Korean War-era military songs territorialized and the theoretical workarounds that the novel offers to the problematic modes of audition associated with the acousmatic situation. Next, I examine the form and function of military songs through a case study of the popular South Korean composition “Comrade-in-Arms, Good Night” (Chŏnuya, chal chara, 1951). Third, I investigate wartime scenes of civilians singing military songs in four works literary fiction by Ch’oe Chŏng-hŭi, Hwang Sun-wŏn, Yun Hŭng-gil, and Yi Mun-gu, respectively. Finally, I present two contrasting portrayals of military songs in the battlefield in the novels Ice Age (Pingha sidae, 1967-1968) and T’aebaek Mountains. Together, the chapter’s readings aim to show how various writers portrayed active reception of military songs in order to reflect, question, or even counter the divisive formation of collective Korean ethnic nationhood.

Presenter: Ethan Waddell is a PhD candidate studying modern and contemporary Korean literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at University of Chicago. His dissertation project, “Listening to South Korean Fiction through Popular Songs, 1950s-1970s,” aims to develop methods for reading modern and contemporary Korean literary fiction through popular music genres.

Discussant: Alex Murphy is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Japanese at Kenyon College, and will be starting as an Assistant Professor of Japanese at Clark University in Fall 2023. His research centers on modern Japan with a focus on the relationship between sound, language, and the body across literature, media and performance.