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The World at Your Fingertips: Technology, Practice, and Narrative in Seventeenth-Century China

The Institute for Chinese Studies at the Ohio State University presents a talk on China and human rights in international trade as a part of the "China at the Crossroads" Lecture Series.

November 9, 2012 1:00pm to 12:00am

“China at the Crossroads” Lecture Series 2012-2013
Autumn Semester 2012

Topic: The World at Your Fingertips: Technology, Practice, and Narrative in Seventeenth-Century China

Sarah Kile is currently Assistant Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Michigan and a postdoctoral fellow at Michigan’s Society of Fellows. She completed her PhD in Chinese literature at Columbia University in 2012. Trained in early modern Chinese literature with a strong background in gender studies and visual culture, she specializes in Ming and Qing drama and fiction. Her current project examines how the best-selling author of seventeenth-century China, Li Yu (1611-1680), engineered and marketed a new experience of the everyday in the burgeoning market economy of the early Qing dynasty through his experimental fiction, diverting plays, and inventive essays. Her research and teaching interests include Ming/Qing drama, novels, and short stories; combining literary analysis with attention to material and visual cultures; theatricality and performance; garden culture; and gender and sexuality.

Lecture Abstract:
Beginning in the late 16th century, Jesuit missionaries brought scientific knowledge to China both in the form of translated texts and of material objects. The transmission and influence of optical devices, painting techniques, and scientific texts has often been conceived of as a one-way street, with China trying to catch up to the more advanced West, despite evidence for earlier Chinese experiments with such devices as the pinhole camera and the camera obscura. Rather than locate technological innovation in particular instruments, I take a broad view of technology, understanding it as tools that expand and contract spatial distances, or that speed up and slow down time – and that these affect both embodied perception and social experience. My study centers on the writing and practice of the audacious literatus, entrepreneur, and author Li Yu (1611-1680). After surviving the transition from the Ming dynasty to the Qing in 1644, Li Yu flourished in the social, textual, and material networks of southern China’s major urban centers Hangzhou and Nanjing for the remainder of his life. I show that technological innovation was the key mode Li Yu’s experiments took and that this mode reverberated throughout his fictional narratives, use of print, theater direction, and architectural and interior design.

Phone Number: 
(614) 247-6893