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.

3/24 Yihui Sheng

Ph.D. Candidate, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan

“Making a New Sound:
The Materiality of the Production of Kunshan Qiang

Time: Friday, March 24, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Location:  Wieboldt 408

Please note the unusual location!

★Co-Sponsored by Theater and Performance Studies Workshop★

Abstract: Late-Ming China enjoyed an exuberant soundscape of southern arias: people with various levels of literacy sang arias in private studios, touring boats, urban brothels, and public gatherings. Kunshan qiang, a singing style (qiang) of southern arias that originated in the Wu region in southeast China and named after Kunshan, between Shanghai and Lake Taihu, stood out as a dominant new sound. Scholarly discussions about the development of Kunshan qiang have focused on a discourse of ya (orthodox and refined) and su (vulgar and popular), arguing that Kunshan qiang was reformed into a musical manifestation of refined taste. One assumption insinuated in these discussions is that the ya-su division can be clearly defined, so the ways in which Kunshan qiang represents the late-Ming understanding of ya-su are also decipherable. However, as Wai-yee Li has recently pointed out, the ya-su division connotes flexible and sometimes contradictory meanings (Li 2022, 93). For this reason, the representational relation between Kunshan qiang and the cultural conceptions of ya also becomes questionable.

Proposing an alternative framework to the ya-su discourse, I introduce a material perspective to analyze Kunshan qiang. I examine a series of material practices that shaped the reform of Kunshan qiang in the late Ming, including the introduction of melodic instruments, the creation of a singing language through annotating marks, and the promotion of a rhythm technique. I argue that Kunshan qiang hybridized the material practices of northern and southern arias to develop its own musical features. This hybridization is less a top-down process from the cultural elites to the less educated performers than one reflecting mutual influences among practitioners across a broad social spectrum. Such a collaborative effort rendered the reformed Kunshan qiang more accessible and attractive to a broader audience in the late Ming than had previously been the case.

Presenter: Yihui Sheng is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on early modern Chinese literature and theater. She has recently defended her dissertation, which is titled, still tentatively, “Performative Reading and Close Listening: Excavating the Media of Chuanqi Song-Drama in Early Modern China (1550s–1750s).” Apart from her academic interests, Yihui has been an amateur singer of Kunqu for almost fifteen years.

Respondents: Judith Zeitlin is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in East Asian Languages & Civilizations and Theater & Performance Studies at the University of Chicago. Her most recent book is The Voice as Something More: Essays Toward Materiality, co-edited with Martha Feldman (University of Chicago, 2019).

She is the author of Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (1993) and The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature (2007), and co-editor of Writing and Materiality in China (2003), Thinking with Cases: Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History (2007), Chinese Opera Film (2010), Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture (2014). She is currently completing a book on the voice, text, and instrument in early modern Chinese entertainment culture. Her next project is to embark on a new, complete, annotated English translation of Pu Songling’s masterpiece Liaozhai’s Strange Tales (Liaozhai zhiyi).

Jacob Reed is a PhD candidate in music theory and history at the University of Chicago. His dissertation project, “Negotiating Grammars: Encounters Between Music and Text” examines domains where language and music supplement, replace, and fight with one another, drawing on examples and tools from sources including hip-hop, pop music, and Kunqu theory. He also performs widely on keyboard instruments, playing organ recitals, collaborative piano, and basso continuo throughout the Chicagoland area.

This event is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with support from a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center Grant.

Spring 2023 Schedule

Dear colleagues, faculty members, and friends,

The Arts and Politics of East Asia Workshop (APEA) is pleased to announce our Spring 2023 schedule. The workshop will meet on Fridays 3:00-5:00 pm in the Spring quarter unless otherwise noted. As usual, we will send reminder emails with location info prior to every workshop session, along with the link to the pre-circulated papers. Please sign up for our listserv if you have not already received those emails.

Spring 2023 Schedule

March 24th, Friday (in-person), 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Yihui Sheng, Ph.D. Candidate, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan
“Beyond the Voice: The Materiality of the Production of Kunshan Qiang”
Discussants: Judith Zeitlin, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor, EALC; Jacob Reed, Ph.D. Candidate, Music
Location: Wieboldt 408
★Co-Sponsored by Theater and Performance Studies Workshop★
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with support from a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center Grant.

March 29th, Wednesday (in-person), 3:30–5:00 p.m.
Yuwei Zhou, Ph.D. Student, EALC
“Was There a Clan Cemetery in Yinxu? –– A Spatial and Statistical Approach to Mortuary Practices in Late Shang China”
Location: LaSalle Banks Room, Oriental Institute
★Co-Sponsored by Interdisciplinary Archaeology Workshop★

April 28th, Friday (in-person), 4:00–6:00 p.m.
Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Art History and EALC; Director, Center for the Art of East Asia; Consulting Curator, Smart Museum of Art
“Outdoor Exhibitions in Beijing, 1979”
Discussant: Paola Iovene, Associate Professor in Chinese Literature, EALC
Location: Room TBD, Cochrane Woods Art Center
★Co-Sponsored by Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia Workshop★

May 12th, Friday (in-person), 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Ethan Waddell, Ph.D. Candidate, EALC
“Songs to Turn the Tide: Mobilizing Music from the Korean War”
Discussant: Alex Murphy, Visiting Assistance Professor of Japanese, Kenyon College
Location: Wieboldt 408

May 19th, Friday (in-person), 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Alia Goehr, Teaching Fellow, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities
“The Therapeutic Text: Jin Shengtan’s Romance of the Western Chamber Commentary”
Discussant: Pauline Lee, Associate Professor of Chinese Religions and Cultures, Saint Louis University
Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)


Please feel free to contact Yuwei (ywzhou@uchicago.edu) and Elvin (emeng@uchicago.edu) with any questions you might have, and we look forward to seeing you at APEA this winter!

12/9 Elvin Meng

PhD Student, Comparative Literature and EALC

“Cataloguing the Media Ecology of Qing Multilingualism: Patterns and Highlights”

Time: Friday, December 2, 2:30-4:30pm CT

Location: Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center Classroom (Regenstein Library Room 136)

Please note the unusual place and time!

Before arriving, please familiarize yourself with the guidelines of the Special Collections.

Abstract: The University of Chicago Library is home to one of North America’s largest collections of Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan rare books and manuscripts from the early modern period, acquired by the Library in several waves in the first half of the twentieth century. These non-Han (or at least, not-solely-Han) xylographs and manuscripts are important sources for understanding the necessarily-plural cultural, political, social, and intellectual histories of the Qing (Mnc. Daicing gurun; Mon. Dayičing ulus), a period whose cultural multiplicity partakes in a long tradition of Inner Asian modes of governance and whose legacy continues to this day.

Approaching this corpus of textual artifacts—and in particular the 71 Manchu language titles that have recently received an updated catalogue—through analytical bibliography and codicology (lato sensu), this presentation gives an introduction to the collection and explores the challenges its various material aspects (format, paper, inserts, ductus, marginalia, reading marks, manuscript composition) pose to the history of reading in a multilingual context. Thinking of this corpus as partaking in a media ecology consisting of interlinked and multi-modal practices of multilingual production, circulation, and consumption, conventional aggregates such as language and genre give way to more local, ambiguous forms of (multi-)languaging. This recognition of more-than-Chinese textual/material practice as overlooked loci of early modern thought, in turn, enables a renewed thinking on familiar questions such as the relationship between literacy and literature, or the nature of linguistic knowledge in the age of kaozheng xue.

Presenter: Elvin Meng is a joint PhD student in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His research interests include East Asian & European thought, media history & theory, translation, Manchu studies, history of linguistics & mathematics, and modernism.

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).