Program

American Research in the Humanities in China , Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars

Project

A History of Modern Chinese Humor

Project

Shakespeare and East Asia

Department

English

Location

For residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library during academic year 2015-2016

A History of Modern Chinese Humor

This study reveals how Chinese literary humor, as both translated and local genres, participates in the simultaneous processes of mitigation and preservation of traumatic collective memory. A series of chronologically-arranged and thematically-connected case studies of films, fictions, and dramas from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong examine comic conceits, Western influence, and various modes of parody from the May Fourth movement (1919-1930s), when nationalist projects attempted to claim ownership of trauma, to the post-1990 era, a crucial period of nostalgic reflection on a “century of pain.” While modern Chinese national history is rhetorically constructed around tragic narratives, the comic culture is part and parcel of the articulation of historical contingencies.

Shakespeare and East Asia

The project identifies three broad themes that distinguish interpretations of local cultures and Shakespeare in modern Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Singapore from their counterparts in other parts of the world: they are leading to a more equitable globalization in artistic terms, they serve as a forum where artists and audiences can grapple with contemporary issues, and through international tour activities they are reshaping debates about the relationships between the East and the West. Asian interpretations of Shakespeare matter to Western readers because of their impact on American and European performance cultures, as exemplified by the worldwide recognition of the works of Ong Keng Sen, Akira Kurosawa, and their peers. The history of East Asian Shakespeares as a body of works—as opposed to random stories about cross-cultural encounter—allows us to better understand the processes of localizing artistic ideas through transnational collaboration.