China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The prevailing of digital media in the new millennium challenges the Chinese tradition of writing and literature (wen). Instead of defending “the literary territory” in digital China, this panel takes a historical perspective to explore the entanglements between the script of Chinese writing and other non-literary media artifacts, genres, and protocols throughout the twentieth century. Part I of the two-part panel brings Chinese words vis-à-vis specific media environments and examines how experiments on designing and reconstructing the script complicate assumed boundaries between the verbal and the visual. Taking verbal-visual translations as at once aesthetic, social, and transmedia practices, this panel looks into historical moments where discussions on the genesis, uses, and evolutions of words and images bring new possibilities to meaning-making and partake of the project of Chinese modernity.
Ren Wei’s and Lu Liu’s papers investigate two distinct attitudes towards the verbal-visual synthesis. While Ren’s study reveals a glimpse of hope in Lu Xun’s design to merge Chinese characters with pictures for cultural reform, ambivalence towards the coexistence of texts with visual media lurks in 1930s “film education,” as Liu’s paper presents. Paul Manfredi and Lina Qu, on the other hand, attend to cross-border efforts that map existent writing, either contemporary poetry or Nüshu, into artistic expressions and political assertions, processes that re-interpret, re-imagine, and reconstruct Chinese scripts. The four papers, from the perspectives of art history, media archeology, literary and cultural studies, align the age-old rich vein of text-image relations with cultural, scientific, and political discourses in modern China.