China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
As historians of print culture remind us, the material appearance of a text significantly influences how it is read. Yet how do we think about such appearances in the digital age when texts no longer need to be material? This panel studies the implications of changing appearances of texts for literary consumption and interpretation, using the notion of “interface” to tackle the roles of book design, authorship, and mediation in Chinese literature from the second half of the twentieth century to our present time. By doing so, we consciously step across the alleged print-digital divide in order to bring to the fore how (dis)similar interface mechanisms are at work: Frances Weightman examines how the paratextual framing of a print children’s book author of Mongolian origin serves to negotiate the ideology of ethnic unity while simultaneously asserting ethnic otherness. Renren Yang analyzes how a number of spoofy digital book covers for Chinese web novels challenge the principle of industrial design and contradict the grand narratives celebrated in the novels. Junting Huang then theorizes the book itself as an intermedial interface of language, printmaking, and installation by introducing the book art of Taiwanese author Hsia Yü. Lena Henningsen turns to scenes of characters’ reading in Chinese popular fictions throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century where many texts read by fictional characters become interfaces into other literary universes. Last, Paize Keulemans discusses what benefits and stakes the media-studies concept of interface brings to Chinese literary studies.