03/01/2024 Rina Sugawara

PhD Candidate, Music

Samurai to Composer: Sōkichi Ozaki ca. 1937

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

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

Abstract: The 1937 manifesto Kokutai no Hongi dictated the modern national mission: “to build up a new Japanese culture by adopting and sublimating Western cultures with our national entity as the basis” (Hall, ed. 1949, 183). Encapsulating the paradoxical joint projects of Japanism and Westernization, the text critiques “abstract thought” as the peril of “Western liberalism” and extols instead, “concrete creation” as a Japanese artistic practice—a distinction also found in musical discourse, which claimed composition in the realm of “creation” [創造/sōzō] rather than the homonymic “imagination” [想像/sōzō]. Curious, then, that a significant fraction of contemporary compositions were fantasy pieces, and that fantasy was theorized as one of three compositional types. Fantasy, to be clear, indexes a European art music category purporting a freedom of expression and fancifulness of thought that seems antithetical to the warring nation’s increasing regulations over the imagination and its expressions. How was fantasy conceived as an appropriately “Japanese” musical form?
In this paper, I discuss Sōkichi Ozaki’s Phantasie und Fuge (1936) and the theories on fantasy penned by his teacher Saburō Moroi. Examined relative to the Kokutai and Alan Tansman’s theory of “the rhetoric of unspoken fascism,” I argue that musical fantasy upholds an imperial philosophy of form that similarly distinguishes abstract from concrete form. As I demonstrate, Ozaki signals a formal topography using trite tonal conventions, deploying what he calls a “model form.” Form here functions as a fungible organizational and rhetorical device rather than an abstracted order of events, just as the Kokutai emphasizes “formal qualities” like repetition over “such matters as premises, transitions, or conclusions” (Tansman 2009, 152). Given Moroi’s claim that the “fantasy type” lacks formal expectations, I conclude that musical fantasy becomes justified as concrete creation by appropriating, or sublimating, Germanic Formenlehre. Ultimately, I propose that musical fantasy is both a fantasy of music and of the nation.

Presenter: Rina Sugawara is a PhD Candidate in Music Theory and History. Her dissertation project is titled, “Politics of Musical Fantasy in Twentieth-Century England, Japan, and the US,” in which she theorizes the sociopolitical work of fantasy as it informs compositional practices and defines the art music category of musical fantasy. Her scholarly commitments include musical form, aesthetic theory, issues on migrant identities and nationalism, as well as abolitionist university studies and active practices of anticolonialism.

Discussant: Hoyt Long PhD is Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Chicago. He teaches in the East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department and also co-directs the Textual Optics Lab. He has published extensively in the fields of modern Japanese literature, media history, and digital humanities. His current research interests include machine translation, computational approaches to world literature, and cultural production in the age of social media platforms.

02/23/2024 Nick Ogonek

PhD Student, EALC

Staying Awhile on BL Planet: Genre, Fantasy, and Role-Play in Asahara Naoto’s Kanojo ga suki na mono wa homo de atte boku de wa nai 

Time: Friday, February 23, 3-5pm CT

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

Abstract: This dissertation chapter draft is about the discursive function of Boys’ Love with and in other forms of queer fiction. Over the past decade, BL has been ascending from marginalized, subcultural form to a dominant mass cultural genre of LGBT media. One product of this ongoing transformation is that the generic norms of BL, such as character types and narrative tropes, appear alongside other fictions of queerness, creating friction and presenting alternative ways of representing “queer.” My presentation will take up this issue through a discussion of Asahara Naoto’s coming-of-age novel Kanojo ga suki na mono wa homo de atte boku de wa nai [She Likes Homos, Not Me] (2018). The novel concerns the relationship between two high school classmates, the closeted gay boy who narrates the novel (and whose prickly self-loathing is signaled by slur in its title) and a sensitive BL fangirl, as they move from friendship to ill-advised romance and back to friendship rebuilt on a foundation of mutual recognition. By charting the growing recognition between a gay character and a BL fan character – the sense that they share some experience of marginalization, and the solidarity which is subsequently established – the novel stages an encounter between BL and other forms of queer fiction and identification, remediating previous debates about the social implications of BL’s representations of gay men as a narrative of reconciliation. In this way, I argue that the novel performs an intervention into the problematics posed by BL as mass cultural genre to emergent queer-feminist solidarities by speculating about what reconciliation would feel like for the people involved.

Presenter: Nick Ogonek is a PhD Student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His in-progress dissertation takes up contemporary literature from Japan to explore the relation between queer literary and cultural production and queer political meaning-making, with particular attention to form and genre.

Discussant: Jiarui Sun is a PhD student from the department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Working at the intersection of media theories and anthropology, her research is concerned with how media and mediation figure into the everyday experiences of sociality and creativity on digital platforms.

02/09/2024 Susanna Sun

PhD Student, EALC & TAPS

“Neither Horse Nor Donkey”: Nationalization of Voice at Shanghai Music Conservatory in 1958

Time: Friday, February 9, 3:00-5:00pm CT

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

★This workshop is co-hosted by the Music and Sound workshop★

Abstract: Responding to the “indigenous versus foreign throat debate” (土洋嗓之争) in early PRC, overseen by Premier Zhou Enlai, an experiment that sought to “nationalize the voice” (声乐民族化) was carried out at the Shanghai Music Conservatory in 1958. Working with rare first-hand accounts, my article shows that the voice nationalization consists of two simultaneous processes: to make voice “scientific” (incorporating the Italian bel canto system), and to capture the “flavor” of the Chinese language in singing (such as vowel shapes and tune-intonation relationship). The voice experiment undertaken represents a radical case in which the ontological boundaries of Western opera and Chinese opera were transcended through a dynamic two-way dialectical experiment. While the concept of “nationalization” often evokes notions of cultural protectionism that prioritizes indigenous culture, this voice experimentation is not a one-way prioritization of a national voice culture, but one that fundamentally seeks to incorporate the Western vocal system and techniques. While the resulting newly created opera is nowadays prevalently perceived as a “hybridization” of Western and Chinese opera, the conceptual framework of “hybridization” does not fully capture the process and vision of the voice reform in its historical and political context, especially in view of Mao’s “Talk to Music Workers” in 1956. This paper examines the interpreted “scientific” connotations of Italian bel canto in its perceived association with anatomical terminology, modernity, vocal sustainability, as well as the experiment’s paradoxes regarding appropriation, creativity in cultural hegemony, and whether the voice is intrinsically apolitical. This paper also reveals the comparable weight between the technical details and their ideological and cultural significance in this artistic transformation process.

Presenter: Susanna Sun is a current second-year PhD student in the joint program of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Theatre and Performance Studies at The University of Chicago. Her main research focus is Chinese opera through approaches across disciplines and media forms, particularly the process of transmediation. She is interested in the specific topics of opera films, opera reforms, cross-dressing performance, and the Ming–Qing drama tradition, and in broader topics such as philosophy, gender, and cross-cultural exchange. She draws upon a variety of methodological approaches and strives to bring attention to the perspectives of the opera performers. She is deeply passionate about Chinese opera and has experience performing Yue opera, an all-female genre, from a young age.

Discussant: 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.

01/26/2024 Yeti Kang

PhD Student, Divinity School

Derrida and Chinese Grammatology: from writing as supplement to the surplus of wen

Time: January 26th, 3-5pm

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


Jacques Derrida’s 2001 visit to China was overshadowed by one of his controversial remarks: “China does not have any philosophy, only thought 中國沒有哲學,只有思想.” This statement, coupled with his exclusion of Chinese writing from the history of philosophy in Of Grammatology, incited a substantial and ongoing debate regarding the “legitimacy of Chinese philosophy.” Simultaneously, there has been a growing scholarly inclination to disengage Chinese philosophy and language from the influences of post-structuralism, exploring new approaches to the decentering of Sinology and Chinese philosophy beyond the “Chinese/West distinction” (Klein 2022). If not rooted in the “Chinese/West distinction,” what defines the decentering of Chinese philosophy? To explore this central question, this paper begins with the problems exposed in Derrida’s treatment of China: what is exactly problematic with Derrida’s approach to Chinese writing and how does it impede a positive, constructive understanding of Chinese philosophy and language?

This paper unfolds through the trajectory of “Chinese grammatology,” a concept introduced by Yurou Zhong (Zhong 2019), which denotes a positive science of Chinese writing, concurrently resonating with Derrida’s grammatology while criticizing it. In line with Zhong’s effort to provide an alternative to Derrida’s idea of writing as “originary supplement,” this paper ventures into the realm of “the surplus of writing” in the evolution of Chinese characters. It delves into the history of Chinese grammatology, epitomized through the critical lineage of three crucial figures: Xu Shen 許慎, Zheng Qiao 鄭樵, and Tang Lan 唐蘭. In doing so, this paper uncovers pathways for understanding history and metaphysics through a grammatology that endorses a recursive progression of the xuan 玄, encompassing both Derrida’s grammatology and Chinese grammatology under a mysterious and decentered version of sino-logy and zhong-guo philosophy.

Presenter: Yeti Kang is a second-year PhD student at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His work aims to contribute to the ongoing discussions in philosophy, religion, and media & technology studies by exploring how different cultural and philosophical traditions have approached issues of writing, intelligence, and communication.

Discussant: Tyler Neenan is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Tyler’s work, which is first and foremost comparative, is concerned with both convergent and divergent figures of negativity and paradox (弔詭思想)—from Zhuangzi through Song Dynasty Buddhist thought, from Kant and Hegel through Freud, Deleuze and Lacan. He is in the earliest stages of writing a dissertation tentatively entitled “Paradox and its Defenses in the Thought of Jingjue Renyue 淨覺仁岳,” the once fiercely loyal disciple of Siming Zhli 四明智禮—turned patricidal renegade, who one day “awoke as if from a dream” (恍如夢覺) and “suddenly denounced his every prior conviction” (向之所學皆非).

01/19/2024 Dr. Graeme R. Reynolds, Mock Job Talk

Postdoctoral Instructor, History

From Restricted Access to Published Archive:

The Circulation and Reception of Official Histories of Koryŏ in Chosŏn (1392–1910)


Time: January 19th, 4-6pm

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

Description of the Talk:

This presentation explores the publication and circulation of two official court histories of Koryŏ (918–1392) compiled in early Chosŏn (1392–1910): the History of Koryŏ (Koryŏsa) and the Essentials of Koryŏ History (Koryŏsa chŏryo). While both works are important historical sources today, the methods and motives of reproduction of each history led to an uneven temporal and geographical distribution, impacting how Chosŏn literati read and wrote histories outside of the court. In particular, the widespread publication of a previously restricted source in the form of the History of Koryŏ spurred new ventures in private history writing in late Chosŏn.

For this mock job talk, I would appreciate any feedback on my presentation style, errors in the talk, points that were not clear, and the like. I especially would appreciate insights and Q&A from non-historians or non-Koreanists, as the job talk is to be held at a Languages and Civilizations department where there are few historians and at present no other Koreanists.



Graeme R. Reynolds Ph. D. is a postdoctoral instructor in History at the University of Chicago. He is a cultural and intellectual historian of early modern Korea with interests in the production and circulation of knowledge, the history of the book, and historiography.

01/12/2024 Yuanxie Shi

Ph. D. Candidate, EALC

From A Handkerchief to A Global History of Chinese Lacemaking

Time: January 5th (Fri), 3-5pm

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


Abstract: The dissertation examines the export lacemaking industry and the appropriation of rural female labor in Chaozhou and Shantou under the Socialist regime. This chapter provides a historical and material background to the topic and explains why lacemaking, this seemingly arcane topic, is important for understanding the global history of handicrafts in the twentieth century, and more specifically the trade between China and the West.

Presenter: Yuanxie Shi is a PhD candidate in East Asian Languages and Civilizations with a research interest in craft and technology, gender and work, and socioeconomic history in China and beyond.

Discussant: Robert Merges is a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Chicago