4/15 Jiayi Chen

PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

Reading Games

Time: Friday, April 15, 3-5pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAtce2rrTovHN3QFXUtmrA4xp6cOQa4y4-n


Abstract: This chapter examines a set of “game texts” around a central figure, the early Qing literati Zhang Chao 張潮 (1650-1707), to establish a methodological basis and general scope for the entire dissertation. Game texts, for the sake of my discussion, is an umbrella term referring to literary quotes and other texts inscribed on game equipment, games whose default goal is to read the literary texts successfully, and texts as a notation system to record and reenact games. I parse the ways in which texts join to shape games, as well as the reading experience could be gamified through the manipulations of graphs and forms. I then advance to explore a series of interplays between games and texts, ranging from dice/domino manuals where literary quotes are paired with dot patterns, a game of reading rendered as a screen image represented with graphs, to a weiqi notation system using words to translate the moves. All three cases, as I demonstrate, subvert a common sense that texts prescribe meanings; rather, yi 意 (literally, meaning), could be appropriated to connect and “enliven” the lifeless dots, be triggered when the texts form the image of an object, and be disordered automatically once a game is enacted. Through varied graphic, formal, and sentence-level innovations, games, I argue, have been turned into an active training ground for both historical readers and us literary scholars alike to learn new possibilities of making sense of the texts, thus encouraging us to redefine what “reading” itself means in early modern China.

Presenter: 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, literature, and reading experience, as well as their relationship to print and theater cultures in China from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

Discussant: 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.

4/1 Susan Su

PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

“Infrastructural fairy tales: State-led development and Tibetan transmedial interventions into China’s cultural heritage regime”

Time: Friday, April 1, 3-5pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEuf-qpqj0uEt3Rsjlh6f9UmM0Ei67bVlUX

On December 17, 2005, a herding family watches a television show in Shaqing Village, Sahuteng Town, Zaduo County, Qinghai Province. Image taken by Ren Xiaogang for a 2005 Xinhua news article on the success of the “Connect every village” infrastructure program in the pastoral regions of Qinghai.

Abstract: At the turn of the 21st century, large-scale development projects in China’s Western provinces channeled central state investments into environmental protection and the construction of transportation and communications infrastructure, leading to the displacement of millions of Tibetans and the proliferation of Chinese-language media in everyday life. The rhetoric of these policies asserts that financial investments into Western provinces would develop the region and its people economically, socially, and culturally. For Tibetans in the PRC, however, the development projects of the 2000s were experienced as an intensified process of national incorporation which sought to flatten and commodify Tibetan cultural heritage in the name of economic development. Therefore, these projects were met with renewed debates on cultural sovereignty and attempts to create alternative spaces for cultural production from below. This paper examines the contestations over cultural management in China’s state development policies through the transmedial interventions of the Third Generation of Tibetan poets and their Tibetan-language literature website Chömé. I argue that the growing access to digital media for Tibetans in the 2000s created opportunities within the decreasing space for Tibetan cultural sovereignty for Chömé to intervene as a transmedial literary archive and space for counterdevelopment.

Presenter: Susan Dan Su is a PhD Candidate in the Department of East Asian Literature and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her research centers on contemporary Tibetan literature and media with an emphasis on development studies, digital media, and cultural heritage in China. She is currently co-organizing the conference “Literary Transversals: Modern East Asian and Diasporic Literature” and hopes to see all of you there in late April!

Discussant: Heangjin Park is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Anthropology and the College at the University of Chicago. Heangjin’s research concerns the global circulation of commodities and the reconfiguration of nationalist imaginaries across South Korea and China, focusing on the production and circulation of “Korean” kimchi in China. He is also participating in the project “Logistics in the Making of Mobile Worlds,” a multi-year collaborative research project funded by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. 


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.


PhD student, EALC

“What Is Exclaimed?! – Exclamation Points From Punctuation Reform to Xiao Hong’s Field of Life and Death

Time: Friday, Mar 4, 3-5 pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIqfuuhrTkvGdbor5Rf9LpQ4PAXW4U8WzBU

The Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Jiarui Sun (PhD student, EALC), who will be presenting a draft of her paper, “What Is Exclaimed?! – Exclamation Points From Punctuation Reform to Xiao Hong’s Field of Life and Death”. Yueling Ji (PhD candidate, EALC) will offer a response.

Jiarui summarizes her paper as follows:

“Because formalistic reforms like the adoption of Western-style punctuations do not explicitly alter “the shape, sound, or meaning of Chinese characters, but instead their configuration and flow on the page” (Mullaney 2017, 207), their impact often lies in the margin of our linguistic awareness, making it difficult for scholars of Chinese language reform to articulate their historical and theoretical significance in the formation of modern Chinese language and vernacular writing. So what happens if we study the evolution of modern Chinese writing from the perspective of one single punctuation mark? In this essay, I trace the historical development of discourses around the “proper” use of the exclamation point and show how its references and rhetorical effects – termed orders of indexicality in linguistic anthropology – build upon one another and give birth to new meanings based on different language users’ ideological engagement. From its most explicit presence in grammar guides to its most implicit impact on literary criticism, I argue that the exclamation point, through its orders of indexicality, opens up productive means to theorize the dialectic relationship between ideologies and linguistic structure, and therefore guide us to a more comprehensive understanding of how formal changes like new-style punctuations deeply impact realms of politics, gender, and artistic virtuosity.”

Presenter: Jiarui Sun is a PhD student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her research encompasses studies of modern Chinese literature, linguistic anthropology, and semiotics. Particularly, she is interested in the relationship between language and nationalism.

Discussant: Yueling Ji is PhD Candidate in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Her dissertation is tentatively titled “The Stylistic Complaint: Methods of Literary Criticism from Cold War China.” It studies the history of the concept of “style” in literary criticism and shows how Chinese critics rely on stylistics to defend their political views. More broadly, she also studies Sino-Soviet relations, Marxism, and gender/sexuality theories.

Please contact Siting Jiang (sitingjiang@uchicago.edu) and Nick Ogonek (nogonek@uchicago.edu) with any questions or concerns.

Nick and Siting, Co-coordinators, Art and Politics of East Asia Workshop, 2021-2

1/28 Research Embarkments: MAPH Thesis Proposal Workshop

Time: Friday, Jan 28th, 3-5 pm CT

Zoom Registration Link: 


How does one embark upon a research project? What are the means, ways and parameters by which one defines and engages with an object of study, especially within the realm of area studies? In what way should one go about making their research legible to other scholars, and across disciplinary boundaries?

This winter quarter, APEA is hosting a thesis proposal workshop for MAPH students working on projects related to East Asian area studies. Our goals are to provide a space for students to discuss their work while it is still at a conceptual stage, to facilitate an opportunity to share projects which engage with the themes of APEA, and to encourage collaborative feedback from APEA’s regular attendees, including other graduate students and professors across various disciplines and specialties related to East Asia.

The workshop will begin with informal five-minute presentations from panelists to introduce their research and their goals for the thesis project. We will then move on to a discussion with the panelists. We encourage questions and feedback directed to single presenters, as well as questions for the entire panel to consider. We also hope to engender general discussion among both panelists and attendees about the process of embarking upon research projects, and how to address the specific challenges of area studies work.



Dreams of Women, Not Dreams of Men

Silin Chen, Graduate Student, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities

While some scholars have come to the conclusion that danmei literature is a distorted pastiche reiterating an unequal heterosexual gender dynamic, this thesis is interested in other possible answers to the questions of what women ask from danmei literature, and what danmei literature is able to provide; although the content of danmei literature could be interpreted in countless ways, the process of writing danmei literature itself has already created a space for each “woman” to express her own understanding of society both physically and ideologically.

Speak Mandarin in New World: The Ethnic Chinese in South Korean Cinema

Molly Meng, Graduate Student, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities

I propose to write a thesis on the film New World (Sinsegye, in Hangul:신세계), a 2013 South Korean gangster noir film directed by Park Hoon-jung, with a focus on how the ethnic Chinese living in South Korea are represented throughout characters’ dialogue and the story plot.

Personal Responsibility in Cross Cultural Exchange

Kathryn Savidge, Graduate Student, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities

I will undertake an exploration of the personal responsibilities of those engaging with foreign cultural property by comparing the cases of the adaptation of Buddhist meditation in America and the adaptation of African-American popular music in Kpop.

Hazy Devotion: A Visual Album in Electronic Music, Eastern Instruments, and Sensory Experience

Hilary Ann Yarger, Graduate Student, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities

For my creative thesis, I will produce a visual album, inspired by East Asian music, aesthetics, and nature, which will merge traditional sounds with the vaporwave and slushwave genres to create an entirely new audio and visual sensory experience.


Dr. Philomena Mazza-Hilway is a Teaching Fellow in the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities. Focusing on modern Japanese literature, her work engages issues of gender, non-human selfhood, genre fiction & minor literatures, and readership. Her current book project, based on her dissertation, examines modern subjectivity in the works of three early twentieth century women writers, arguing that these writers employed strategies of the ‘feminine grotesque’–at once generative and abject– within the written negotiations of their emergent subjecthood. Her second project traces the evolution of othered literary subjects in women’s postwar literature, utilizing their work to interrogate the nature and notion of a coherent, agential subject in modern Japanese literature.