Navigating the MLA for East Asianists

MLA Session “Navigating the MLA for East Asianists”

This year at the MLA annual meeting in NYC, I will lead Session #275 on Friday, January 5, 2018 at 10:15 am – 11:30 am in Concourse G, Hilton Hotel, entitled “Navigating the MLA for East Asianists.” I welcome literary/cinema/cultural studies scholars in East Asia to attend, and others as well. The MLA is a complicated, multifaceted academic association, and it could be described as “byzantine” and “arcane.” But as the largest humanities academic association in the world, it is important. The good news is that in recent years the MLA has undergone a massive structural transformation and now there are FORUMs dedicated to the following: “Chinese Literature before the 14th Century”; “Ming and Qing Literature”; “Chinese Literature and Culture from 1900”; “East Asian Literatures” (mainly comparative); “Japanese Literature before 1900”; “Japanese Literature and Culture after 1900”; “Korean Literature”; and most recently “Southeast Asian Literatures and Cultures.” I have noticed with the influx of participants and increased interest from scholars in East Asian Studies that many people have questions about the MLA. Thus, we decided to organize this session to provide an introductory outline. The session will be split in half with the first half essentially me describing the various components of the MLA and the second half open discussion and questions. Here are some of the facets that will be covered: Continue reading

Afternoon with Huang Wenhai and Zeng Jinyan

The Exilic Gaze and the Activist Lens:
An Afternoon with Documentary Filmmakers Huang Wenhai and Zeng Jinyan

Saturday, December 2, 2017, 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Michelson Theater, Department of Cinema Studies, NYU
721 Broadway, 6th Floor

Huang Wenhai and Zeng Jinyan are two important members of the Chinese independent documentary community that emerged in Beijing in the 1990s. The community has since flourished and transformed into a complex cluster of groups with diverse social, political, and aesthetic aspirations, as well as wider regional dispersal. Currently based in Hong Kong, veteran independent director Huang Wenhai (Dream Walking 2005, We 2008) and human rights activist, feminist scholar, blogger and filmmaker Zeng Jinyan(Prisoners in Freedom City, 2007), joined hands in making We the Workers (2017). The epic-scale film documents migrant workers of two generations in Southern China who have tried to organize themselves to protest against the unfair compensation and sub-human workingconditions that have been part of the price tag of the economic miracle in China.

2:00 pm -5:00 pm We the Workers 凶年之畔, directed by Huang Wenhai & produced by Zeng Jinyan, 2007, 173 min.

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm Panel discussion with Huang Wenhai, Zeng Jinyan, Prof. Angela Zito (Center for Religion and Media, NYU) & Prof. Feng-Mei Heberer (Cinema Studies, NYU), moderated by Prof. Zhen Zhang (Cinema Studies, NYU).

Co-sponsored by the Center for Religion and Media, NYU.

Free and open to the public.

Yangdon’s death

Dear all,

I’m deeply saddened to pass on the news of the death of the author Yangdon (Ch. Yangzhen 央珍). She passed away in Beijing in October. Yangdon was best known for her novel Wu xingbie de shen 无性别的神 (A God Without Gender), and for blazing a trail for Tibetan women’s writing in Chinese. She will be greatly missed.

Here are two links about the news:

And a profile of Yangdon in English:

Christopher Peacock <>

MLA New Permanent Forum in SE Asian Literature

The Modern Language Association (MLA) has approved our proposal for a permanent Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (CLCS) forum in Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian Diasporic literature and culture.  The forum welcomes proposals on any aspect of literature and cultural production related to Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian diasporas, including Sinophone studies (the 2018 Convention in New York City will feature several panels related to Southeast Asia, including presentations on Sinophone topics).  The inaugural forum chair is Cheryl Narumi Naruse of Tulane University.

All MLA members are invited to the first business meeting of this newly established forum at the 2018 MLA Convention on 4 January 2018, 8:45-10:00 p.m., room Clinton, in the New York Hilton Midtown. This meeting will be an opportunity to meet other scholars working on Southeast Asian related topics as well as a time to discuss future MLA sessions, elect executive committee members, and plan forum activities.

We look forward to seeing you.


The Executive Committee of the Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian Diasporic CLCS Forum

Cheryl Narumi Naruse (chair)
Ben Vu Tran (secretary)
Sheela Jane Menon
Brian Bernards <>

Dazibao exhibition

Source: Sup China (11/14/17)
When Words Kill: ‘Big-Character Posters’ Are Testament To Tenacity And Suffering In One Of China’s Darkest Periods

In China in Ten Words, translated into English by Allan H. Barr, author Yu Hua gives a trenchant description of big-character posters (大字报 dàzìbào) as he experienced them as a child:

At the outset of the Cultural Revolution “big-character posters” started to appear. Political screeds rendered in clumsily handwritten characters — and now and again some elegantly written ones, too — these were the first acts of the disenfranchised masses in challenging the power of officialdom. Written on broadsheets are big as decent-sized windows and posted on the walls that ran alongside city streets, shorter versions took the form of two sheets of paper mounted one on top of another, while longer ones involved five or six sheets set out in a horizontal row. In the years to follow, these big-character posters would become the largest exhibition of calligraphy China has ever seen: all across the country, in cities and towns, big streets and small, walls were decorated with them. People would gather in the streets and read the posters with undisguised relish, for although they all employed much the same revolutionary rhetoric, they began to criticize officials and their high and mighty ways. Continue reading

Xu Zhimo event

I’m one of the organizers for the Xu Zhimo event in New York tomorrow. The reason that we are conducting the event in Chinese is that the event is not in the form of a symposium, but rather readings of Xu’s poems and music tributes. We do have some speeches and readings in English such as the remarks by Dr. Tony Hsu, Xu Zhimo’s grandson and a UN interpreter (on a poem he translated into English). See the event program at: (in English) (in Chinese)

For people who are interested, you are welcome to tune in live streaming from 2 to 4:30 pm tomorrow at

The event description is at

Yong Ho <>

ACCL membership and conference survey

Dear Colleagues,

Recently, many of you have participated in the leadership election for the Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature—thank you for taking the time to vote!

As the incoming ACCL president, I have posted a survey asking for basic membership registration data, and for your preferences regarding the location of our next biennial conference, in 2019.  Membership is free, and we welcome all those in related fields who are interested.  The survey is online here:

Please forward this link to any colleagues or graduate students whom you think might be interested in joining ACCL, and fill out the survey no later than December 15.  Although in my recent election statement, I did propose holding the next conference in Vancouver, I am serious about following the preferences of the membership.  If there is a clear majority or plurality in favor of a specific location, I will arrange the conference there; if there is a more ambiguous result, I will try hard to arrange the conference at a convenient site which attracted significant support.  In order to be open with you all about these results, I will share with the ACCL membership a summary of the aggregate preferences after the close of the survey, though of course individual identifying information will be kept confidential.

I have confirmed with multiple Chinese scholars that the Survey Monkey website is available from within the PRC, though it loads very slowly.  In case anyone finds it impractical to access the above link, I have attached a form-fillable ballot, which you may return directly to me at

Thanks, and best wishes,
Daniel Fried <>
2017-19 ACCL President

Turn It On: China on Film, 2000-2017

Presented concurrently with the exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, the Guggenheim is screening a film series cocurated by Ai Weiwei and filmmaker Wang Fen.  “Turn It On: China on Film, 2000–2017,” is a series of documentary films from China  produced between 2000 and 2017. You’ve posted about some of the filmmakers before, and I thought you might be interested.

The series is a comprised mostly of daytime screenings, which are free with museum admission. We have one additional film screening on January 4 that is in the evening. Find the screening schedule below

Daytime screenings are free with museum admission and take place in the New Media Theater.

Friday, November 3, 12 pm

Petition 上访, 2009

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

1071 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10128

Directed by Zhao Liang 赵亮
Mandarin with English subtitles, 315 min.
In this long-form documentary filmed over more than a decade, petitioners at Beijing South Railway Station Petition Office are confronted by contradictions in a system intended to protect citizens from legal injustice and political violation. Continue reading

Exhibition of Dazibao and Woodcuts

Exhibition of Dazibao and Woodcuts from 1960s China at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Join the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies for a panel discussion and reception to celebrate the launch of our new exhibition of Cultural Revolution-era artworks.

The exhibition will be on display in the CGIS South Building Asia Centers Lounge, 1730 Cambridge Street from November 9 to November 30, 2017.

This is the first time that these dazibao (or “big-character posters”) have been publicly displayed since the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Denise Ho, Assistant Professor of History, Yale University
Jie Li, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
Roderick MacFarquhar, Leroy B. Williams Research Professor of History and Political Science, Emeritus, Harvard University
Julia Murray, Professor of Art History, Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Xiaofei Tian, Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University

Moderated by Michael Szonyi, Director, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University

A reception will follow the panel discussion.  Continue reading

Zheng Qingwen passes

Zheng Qingwen.

It is with sadness that I post that the Taiwanese author Tzeng Ching-wen (Zheng Qingwen 鄭清文) who was born on September 16, 1932 died on Saturday November 4, 2017.

Perhaps he is best known in English translation for his story “The Three Legged Horse.” Chi Pang-Yuan wrote the following of him in her introduction to a 1999 Columbia UP anthology of translations.

“Very few of Taiwan’s writers have so quietly and steadily persevered in their creative work for forty years the way Cheng Ch’ing-wen has. He has never made big waves in Taiwan’s literary circles, but his name is one that commands and receives respect. Cheng has succeeded in maintaining a high level of quality in all of his almost two hundred short stories. Each story has a central character through whom Cheng, with his light-handed application of ink and occasional splashes of color, paints his pictures of specific times, places, and circumstances. His collected stories cover in considerable detail numerous aspects of Taiwan’s past and present. Critics Peng Jui-chin and Hsu Su-lan have both compared Cheng’s approach to writing to a towering royal palm that does not tempt passersby with showy flowers or fruit or intentionally try to attract notice. So many things in contemporary society that use flashiness and glitz to compete for the public’s attention end up leading to emptiness and loneliness. Yet Cheng describes his own stories very positively: “I look at their stick-straight backbones; they are never cringing, nor arrogant. They quietly, stubbornly point in a direction, little bit by little bit, and slowly grow and develop.’ ‘Everyone has to find his own path in this life. As a writer, I wanted to find something of a resting place for the soul in a country without a set orthodox religion; in the process I unexpectedly discovered some truths that look rather simplistic on the outside, but that have far-reaching significance.’” (Chi 1999, ix-x)

Bert Scruggs <>

Cornell Contemporary China Initiative

Hi everyone,

Cornell’s Contemporary China Initiative, a weekly lecture organized and hosted by professor Robin McNeal, is now in its third year, and has accumulated a substantial number of digitized, hour-long talks that may be useful to list members.

At the CCCI repository, there are talks by Sebastian Veg (on intellectuals in the contemporary public sphere), Magnus Fiskejö (on the show trials of Hong Kong booksellers), Paola Iovene (on the trope of ), Wendy Su (on the PRC film industry and Chinese soft power), Yiyun Li (on her book Dear Friend, migration, and language), Leta Hong Fincher (on leftover women 剩女), Carlos Rojas (on 马华文学), myself (on literary copies, prose poetry and imitation architecture) and a lot lot more. Other talks range from economics to power politics, but I’ve already gone on too long. The full archive resides here:


Nick Admussen  <>

ACCL presidential election results

Dear all,

The voting period for the election of the next ACCL president has concluded. In all, we received 177 valid votes from North America, Europe, and Asia—a number that Michelle Yeh and Xiaomei Chen (who have tabulated the votes for the past several election cycles, describe as “unprecedented” for ACCL). The vote was also unusually close, with the runner-up receiving 85 votes, and the winner receiving 92.

Please join me in congratulating Daniel Fried as the next ACCL president! His term begins immediately. I would also thank Mingwei Song for accepting the nomination, and for his many years of service to ACCL. I’m delighted that we had two such strong candidates, and such a competitive election.

Finally, I would like to thank Michelle Yeh and Xiaomei Chen for, once again, tabulating the vote. As ACCL continues to grow, this biannual task is becoming more and more time-intensive!

I hope many of you will be able to join us for the next ACCL conference in 2019!

take care,


carlos rojas
duke university

A literary award for plagiarists

Source: Sup China (11/1/17)
A literary award for plagiarists
By Jiayun Feng

“I thought this was something from the Onion at first. But I’m glad to know it is real news.”

“A well-deserved prize for such a despicable plagiarist. We need more awards of this kind in various fields.”

From Weibo (in Chinese)

On November 1, the first Firestone Literary Awards (燧石文学奖 suìshíwénxuéjiǎng) took place in Beijing. A crowd of Chinese authors showed up at the ceremony, where a list of awards was announced, including Best Short Story, Best Novel, and the one that stole the whole show — the White Lotus Award, a special prize dedicated to “awarding” plagiarized works. The phrase white lotus (白莲花 báiliánhuā) is internet slang that refers to someone, usually a woman, who pretends to be sweet and innocent while engaged in manipulation and scheming. Continue reading