Popular Literature at the Beginnings of the 20th and 21st Centuries
On March 19, 2018, Harvard University hosted professors Christopher Rea (University of British Columbia), Yanjun Shao (Peking University) and Xiqing Zheng (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) for a workshop discussing Chinese popular culture at the beginnings of the 20th and 21st centuries. In his talk titled “Of Sponger, Sharpers, and Cannibal Eunuchs: The Swindle Story around the World,” Professor Rea gave an overview of the various types of “swindle” stories that have appeared from the late-Ming to the early-Republican period. In her talk “Literary Transmigration in the Internet Age” (網絡時代的文學引渡), Professor Shao discussed the development of internet literature in the People’s Republic of China, from the mid-1990s to today. She particularly emphasized the development of the for-pay model of internet literature, and the true meaning of “popular” literature in China today. In her talk titled “Cheers! Lonely Otakus: Barrage Subtitles as a Form of Identity Performances,” Professor Zheng further developed the previous discussion by analyzing the develop of “barrage subtitles” and the role they play in allowing internet users to participate in the crafting of digital media. She elaborated on the interactivity of visual media online and how this represents the creation of a new structure of feeling for the digital age. The event had nearly thirty attendees that participated in the group discussion following the three presentations. Overall, it was a lively and insightful conversation.