Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Movie Review: "Molloch" (1999)

"Moloch" directed by Aleksandr Sokurov

The Negation of the Anti-Hero

If you remember Casablanca, you'll recall that Rick is a man who begins the film dead on the inside. His heart is broken, he is an alcoholic, he's perfectly neutral, and he doesn't stick his neck out for anybody. But as the film progresses Rick rediscovers his own life again and goes on to take a roll in the war.

"Moloch" shows us this reverse story of the anti-hero Rick. Hitler is the negation of an anti-hero, someone who probably began life off-screen perfectly moral and alive. But his desires and fears have made him a monster, dead on the inside.

People who destroy life do so because they are afraid of their own deaths. Any child who has a momentary fright in contemplating death may respond by killing an insect or a small animal and taking succor in the control over life and death. This is how evil might begin. Thus Sokurov films the vulnerable, underwear-clad Hitler of the everyday in a state of child-like fear of his own death, nearly all the time.

But the real damnation of the killer is that in the end even perpetrating destruction will not ward off the ghosts of the mind. "Death is death," reminds Eva Braun, helpfully. Like Rick's Ilsa, she knows the whole time the true source and purpose of life, knows it down in her bones. But poor Eva has no Rick to work with, and eventually her efforts to liven Hitler only bring up her own worst fears.

Pretty nice example of classical plot structure with negation of the anti-hero!

Poem: On Insect Paintings

A Mantis Painting I found on the Internet. Clearly this is what is referred to in the line 拒者如举臂, no?

A new poem draft, thanks to help Jonathan Chaves 1970.

...In the fourth year of Qingli (1044), Mei Yaochen has the poem "On Seeing Juning’s Insect Painting:" 观居宁画草虫

The ancients painted tigers and swans,
They never surpassed dogs and ducks.

Now I look on paintings with insects:
Form and intention are both just enough.

The Walker: how forcefully he seems to go,
The Flyer: how high he seems to follow.
He who Warns: arms seem raised,
He who Cries, seems like his belly is moving!
The Jumper, tensing his leg muscles,
The Caretaker, tending to his eyes.

Then I know the magic of the Creator,
Can’t touch the brush for agility.
In Piling there are many craftsmen of paint,
Drawing, scribbling, filling their scrolls in vain.
Master Ning is truly inspired,
All the others sit at his feet in respectful service.
His grass and roots are densely-packed with intention,
Drunken ink that gets it well.
Men of influence can’t summon him,
His honorable conduct even now stands alone.


Character Reform 2009

List of characters with proposed modifications from Tianya.cn

A little-reported policy proposal in China is the reform of 44 Chinese characters. All the changes are minor in the extreme -- mostly just calligraphy modifications from straight-hook 坚钩 to plain straight 坚 strokes. And yet, huge numbers of Chinese are uncomfortable with the changes. It's a popular political question now open in China. Link to the only story I see on this so far.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Week 10: More Anxiety

"Sweeping away illiteracy," China, 1952. From what looks like a nice article on literacy programs.

Last week, I failed to finish my translation once again -- I have a terrible block on it, there's no avoiding it. It's not that I don't know how to translate it, it's just that I can't sit down and work on it. A psychological problem revealing itself. Anxiety about working on my dissertation, clearly!

That ends this week. Goals: finish the translation, at least 5,000 words onto my dissertation (caveat: that means probably 500 words that will be salvageable in the end).

I'm also going to work in film and book reviews here as I feel necessary. This is motivated by the McKee seminar, of course, and my interest in documenting as much of my experience of story as possible.

Movie Review: "The Sun" (2005)

"The Sun" was a good way to introduce ourselves to the minimalist, detail-obsessed films of Alexander Sokurov -- so thanks to Minnesota Film Arts for showing it at St. Anthony Main, February 2010.

Sokurov's Emperor Hirohito is not only humanized in this film, he finds redemption, if in a limited way that leaves him assailable for his true weakness: weakness of will, anxiety of spirit, and dreamy preference for leisurely study and cool contemplation. Hirohito is a true nobleman where his job called for either a savior or a butcher.

The actor who plays Hirohito, Issey Ogata, has an amazing technique. All of his facial features and especially his mouth and front teeth are applied very deliberately to create the sense of a careful, intelligent, and ultimately ordinary man.

What to say of Sokurov's unique vision? It's something like a documentary of daily habits, a virtuosic sequencing of mundane and ritual behavior -- eating breakfast, reading a book, chatting with his servants, waiting for General McArthur to return, greeting his wife -- sequences that contain turning points. A surprisingly naive, yet resigned man faces up to his life, thus learning to really live in the end.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

1,000 Words a day: Its all in the turning points

Summer of 1958, Liaoning Province, Beipiao County, Under Elms Village, Longtan Farming Commune, taking a break from work and “leap-horsing” in the fields. Thanks to Tianya via VirtualChina.org

Okay, time to get freakin' serious about writing. McKee repeated the line that a professional writer will clock a thousand words a day. In other words, the writer sees his work the way the accountant, the policeman, or any other day-wage earner sees his work. Or at least he tries to.

Today: brainstorming chapter 4. (I still have only a vague idea of the thrust of this chapter;og more after I learn more about the academic antagonists) Also more writing to come in the form of translation.


McKee Notes

The McKee story seminar seems to me at this moment to be more important to my future career than all my years of graduate school. Now perhaps that's an exaggeration, but truly, I don't feel that way. The clip above, for example, combines story structure ideas that I was taught in high school with the supplement that the writer can change story form with a plan in mind. I learned something a little like that in graduate school, but only in a flabby way that took too much time and too many words. This was 2 minutes of the seminar! And even more importantly, McKee asks us to think like writers. And that is more important than thinking like a scholar, at least to me, right now.

Thus the 68 pages of notes I took over the four days of the seminar will probably be one set of notes that I actually return to again and again.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Week 9: Anxiety Time

I return from the desert outpost ready to serve.

Well, spring break 2010 may not have been the most enjoyable experience, but it was the most educational. No strike that -- despite its ups and downs, this was the best spring break ever, I think.

I return from the McKee story seminar with too much work and not enough time. And that seems just about right to develop my story. Its a timeless tale of a quest to succeed against all odds, one that reinforces the most basic values: discipline, hard work. It could almost be mundane or trivial, but because I know how to avoid repetition, how focus in sharply on the turning points in the struggle, there is the powerful sense that this a fight with real risks that is nevertheless worth carrying on. We can be heroes!

Goals this week:
  1. Submit registration for IABA Conference.
  2. Finish Yang Jiang translation, making a quick Step Outline along the way
  3. Keep going over my notes on Story and keep it active in the mind....
  4. Finish final editing of the classical poetry paper


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Week of March 17

Scene from Adaptation dramatizing the McKee story seminar. Never thought when I first saw this film that I would take the seminar!

It's spring break at the University. Goals for me:

  1. Finish fellowship application (check!)
  2. Finish the Yang Jiang Translation (probably not possible, but one must keep trying)
  3. Put in some time at the Tretter Collection (check!)
  4. Keep reading classical poems. I have in mind now a story that would use the Qingli-era poetry I've been looking at. Something that would really sum up the "spirit of the age." (those are both direct quotes and air quotes)
  5. Attend the Robert McKee story seminar. That's my spring break activity this year! I just wish I had more of a Nicholas Cage look for this.

  6. Keep up the "career search project" together with A.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Poem: Wang Anshi

Wang Anshi 王安石, Chancellor of the Song, Reformer and Pragmatist, and Sometime Poet

Last week on Facebook I made some comment like "We need a man like Wang Anshi again," thinking of how the reformist poet plays in my mind like Hoover might have to Archie and Edith as they sang the All in the Family theme song. Later on my adviser P. made a comment about me and my "precious Wang Anshi." I liked the idea that I was getting energy from the voice of a young reformist of the past, and sort of getting called on how problematic it all is to gain inspiration or influence from anything so far in the past, and how ultimately Wang Anshi was left a defeated man, which should serve as warning as much as inspiration.

Anyway, though, in my future hypothetical biography of Wang Anshi, we must stress that the defeats and frustrations of the man are precisely where the poetry lies. I'll of course have a beautiful translation of many of these great narrative poems, so long and full of dialogue they have the potential to completely re-invigorate our sense of the Chinese past, if only we could English them stylishly enough.

Fortunately or not, I have to English one or two as part of a job I'm doing. It's so hard! Here's the poem: (translation under construction forever, from now on)


A painted boat with banner, fluttering in the autumn rays,
cries of cymbals and knocks of drums, everyone is happy and grand.

'To be the Zhangyu Prefect, a nobleman of Wu,
You'll travel to those lands of Dipper and Bull.
The townspeople emerge from the city walls for drinks on board;
And clay-roasted turtles, and minced fish, and piping hot whole grains.
The qianshi seeds greasy and bursting, water chestnuts as wide around as a waist;
(8) pouring drinks, calling and talking loudly, seated at full couches.

You were sentenced to three years, sir, in the in the Qutang [Gorge],
and further to spur post-horses to climb great heights.
No more horse detail for you, and you return to your main duty, Suddenly You're off again to the southern frontier.
From Jiujiang sent back to work, given tribute and fine writings,
Launched onto the waves, where the wind blows, surging without end.
There's a dragon playing in the water, the winds have grown mad,
(16) Great whirlpools will suddenly wreck your sturdy ship.'

You heard these words and were sorely vexed, then welcomed the officer to hold up another drink.

'The towns and provinces that I have passed through, mostly have good officials.
(20) Once they were pacified, there were all manner of feudal lords and kings.
With halls high enough to touch heaven, soaring past goes a jasper bird,
The western mountains all around, dotted with bluish pines.

Below observe: castle walls, moats, ponds of real gold;
The quarters of true heroes, facing one another.
(25) The middle classes have the best treasure of all:
rice paddies, planted and plowed, fruitful and abundant.

Mixed from a thousand merchants, treasures in sandlewood lipstick,
Up goes mast of the ship, great as a mountain.
Ships wake shoots out the back as we surge up the Jing;

(30) Out pour pretty clothes and nice shoes, famous courtesans all in a line.
Smiling young girls whose song and dance can break your heart,
Docks on the side of the placid lake, smoke so vague and vast.

These trees, these stones, so precious and new! These flowers and grasses, so sweet!
From some hidden-away place, in snatches, the sound of a reed flute.
(35) The beauty of the earth and the heroism of man are part of the ancient ways;
Our most elite troops stand ready; the banquet is served.

Generals and officers of the Shizhou rise and fall by turns,
So follow commands with a joke and a smile, as rain returns to shine.
If your talent weren't great, your strength not steel,
(40) Then how could you make it this far?
Why should I let listening to my guest make me so depressed?"
Then you thanked the officer and hurried to buy provisions
(43) Now seek you pleasures! And never reach a violent ending.

Lines _-41: Wang's imagined Cheng answers the depressing comment with a monologue about the greatness of the empire, averring that with strength of will, one can succeed.
1. The xing: a vision a boat, on which we shall have a party.
3.-8. The feast.
9-16, Fortuna smiles on you, for now.
15. 缨 ying is a collar for horses 旄 ying mao, not a lot of information, but I take it the yak banner, or even the horse itself, would be a symbol of the Sichuan officialdom, and he's pulling out of that to be sent east to Yuzhang, aka Hongzhou, Jiangxi, which is quite a step up.
L 22 Scales and gill fins represent pine trees 代称松树。鳞喻松树皮,鬣喻松针。明 吴承恩 《画松》诗:“鳞鬣如有声,飢蛟对相语。”
L 25 The concern with the zhonghu, mid-level property owners, is indicative of the Northern Song reformers, also e.g.《宋史·高宗纪七》:“三月丁丑,雨雹。丁亥,蠲 江 、 浙 、 荆 、 湖 等路中户以下积年逋负。”
26-7: huh? How go from middle classes to the boat full of courtesans?
L 27, 沉檀 Apparently coined in a ci Li Yu: 一斛珠 (李煜)晚妆初过,/沉檀轻注些儿个。A note on the poem says this is a form of lipstick.
Line 29, yea we got the party boat here. Surging full of courtesans, Snoop-style.
Lines 31-2, our courtesans blend into the scenery (?)
Lines 33-4, the landscape comes into focus.
Line 35, diling refers to beauty 灵秀 of the landscape; cf. similar lines like 隋 姚察 《游明庆寺诗》:“地灵居五浄,山幽寂四禪。” 宋 欧阳修 《晋祠》诗:“地灵草木得餘润,鬱鬱古柏含苍烟。”
Line 36, sounds like this was a breakfast banquet before a big day; cf. Han Qi (one of the Qingli reformers not mentioned in this paper): 宋 韩琦 《观稼回北园席上》诗:“尝酒管弦先社集,捺弮禾黍极云齐。”
Line 37: I take 随 as 'adapting to' 适合
Line 38: Tanxiao zhihui: Cf. the similar line 明 唐顺之 《塞下曲赠翁东崖侍郎总制》之十六:“画戟森森清昼閒,指挥只是笑谈间。yuyang: 'rise and fall' reflected in the weather, cf. Lu You: 宋 陆游 《乞祠禄札子》:“今春以来,雨暘尤为调适,二麦继熟,民间亦以为所收倍於常年。”
Line 40: odd phrasing to me, but I extrapolate from line 39. Clear enjambment!
Line 41, Wuwei has an annoying number of glosses, but is ample evidence for the one used here: 不用;何必。《西京杂记》卷二:“ 扬雄 读书,有人语之曰:‘无为自苦,《玄》故难传。’”《古诗十九首·今日良宴会》:“无为守穷贱,轗軻常苦辛。” 宋 王安石 《车螯》诗之二:“无为久自苦,含匿不暴陈。”
Line 42, zhizhuang; as with quyang below, dictionaries quote this very line. The character 趣 with this meaning is apparently pronounced qu. 使 is mysterious to me here.
Line 43, quyang means 匆遽完结 cf. the similar line, 明 瞿佑 《归田诗话·廉夫诗格》:“愿汝康强好眠食,百年欢乐未渠央。” Its also from the last line of the poem, so suggests some lyrical, resigned ending I suppose.

Wang Anshi, and Li Bi, ed. Wang Jingwen Gong shi Li Bi Zhu, 王荆文公诗李壁注 [The poetry of Master Wang Jinggong, annotated by Li Bi]. Shanghai Guji Chubanshe, 1993: juan 6. Library Trip: PL2686 .A6 1960, East Asian lib of course.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dossier: Fan Zhongyan 范仲淹

Fan Zhongyan 范仲淹, image used on a Taiwan postage stamp, apparently

I guess the most interesting figure I learned about in the translation I have almost completed is Fan Zhongyan. He was a reformer, just like I would like to be, and interested in everything from increasing agricultural productivity to poetry. Actually these two things were much closer in those days, which is really the whole reason for the discussion...More later I hope, this again is one of those "stubs" I'd like to work in free time.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fellowship: Interdisciplinary

Telling Stories, 2008. Submitted in Evidence for a Fellowship Year

My next fellowship application has simply got to succeed. I can feel it! I'm going to make it my first accomplishment in the realm of "interdisciplinary studies," and I'm going to do continue some of the work that the authors of the book Telling Stories have done here.

Maynes, M. J, J. L Pierce, and B. Laslett. Telling Stories: The Use of Personal Narratives in the Social Sciences and History. Cornell Univ Pr, 2008.

Reviews and publication blurbs a book can help me with the application proposal:
First, the blurb gives me the general statement of the problem:
The authors stress the importance of recognizing that stories that people tell about their lives are never simply individual. Rather, they are told in historically specific times and settings and call on rules, models, and social experiences that govern how story elements link together in the process of self-narration.
The key emphasis here the connection between a life story and the larger social structures that produced it. The individual in society, we might say. Or "the connections between individual life trajectories and collective forces and institutions beyond the individual," as one reviewer says.

The role of the researcher is clearly one major issue to consider here. One reviewer says the book is great for any "would-be narrative historians." It seem to me that the fact that a literary scholar should ever consider himself in this game is testament to the changing role of literature as cultural studies takes permanent hold. This is a vague thought, but I'll be back at it after I grade a few papers.

One last thing for now. The two-page review of this book in the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth gives us questions to ask when it points out deficiencies in the book:
Although the authors recurrently take pains to situate recent theorizing
within a broad historical framework—e.g., enlightenment view of human
agency and critics of this view and the development and subversion of positiv-
ist epistemology—shortcomings must be noted: The authors overlook certain
pertinent pioneering texts, namely Virginia Yans-McLaughlin’s application
of philosophical phenomenology, “Metaphors of Self in History: Subjectivity,
Oral Narrative, and Immigration Studies” in her edited volume Immigration
Reconsidered (1990). Curiously, too, Telling Stories does not include the pro-
tean theoretical field of performance studies in relation to personal narratives.
Various scholars in communications studies and theater actively address the
complicated issues involved in staging personal narratives, especially with nar-
rators among the audience joining those among the performers.
Telling Stories has little directly to say about the value or use of personal
narratives to the historical study of childhood and youth, but, indirectly, this
brilliant presentation of current theories and methods of personal narrative
scholarship has enormous importance to such study. On the occasions that
reference is made to childhood and youth experience as recollected by adults—
e.g., the early development of career choice, experiences of socially marginal-
ized mothers, memories of schooling, rebel youth outlook and activism, letters
related to marital choice—we learn of these years’ formative role in the shaping
of adults’ consciousness and behavior. Although these are very useful texts for
scholars of childhood and youth, we long for direct interviews of children and
youth about their lives, considered with the same kind of careful historical con-
textualization and theoretical sophistication represented in the best analyses of
adult personal narratives. In a suggestive discussion of Adelheid Popp’s early
adult autobiography about her Austrian pre—World War I childhood and her
adult activism as a socialist feminist, the authors state that at ten she no longer
thought of herself as a child. One is left to wonder when and how do individu-
als identify as a child or as a youth or as an adult. The authors follow up their
Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 281
sketchy discussion of Popp by noting that in China, biographies that make
reference to childhood “tend to be forumulaic and perfunctory” (p. 35). The
authors define their subject as life stories through adult retrospection, which, in
effect, precludes the study of narratives of more limited, particularly childhood
and youth, time spans. This restriction, however, doesn’t undermine most of the
arguments of their superb book.
Despite the authors’ admirably concise, self-scrutinizing, and clear presen-
tation of personal narrative issues, this is not a book for most undergraduates.
It requires readers with experience in the field of personal narratives’ research
and those with appreciation for the immense value of close scrutiny of the
assumptions guiding their practice. As such, it serves tellingly the interests of
graduate students and faculty and those engaged professionally outside aca-
demia in public history and personal narrative work.


Raising Taxes

Fareed Zakaria says we can fix the deficit by taxing a bit more

Personally, I like Zakaria's reasoning, and I think he's calculating he can attract some momentum for tax increases now. The same idea is expressed in his column from last week. As a job seeker, this is yet another issue I must now follow carefully if I want consider my decision about where to live and work a responsible one.



Places to Get a Job

"There are so many ways to serve eggs at breakfast" : A Lesson at UIC

A really exciting article published earlier this year from the Chronicle gives me several places to start looking for jobs, including a new private liberal arts school. This school UIC in Zhuhai is definitely worth pursuing! Click here to watch the staff recruitment video, which has some hilarious scenes of foreign teachers describing their work there.

Brave new world.

How would I get a job at such a place? Here's a profile of Morton Holbrook, an old internationalist-lawyer who is now on the faculty there (and no doubt the administration as well).


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

可惡可惡! An aborted fellowship application

Sometimes I feel like the incompetent king and the frustrated minister at the same time

Disappointment piles upon disappointment. It's Tuesday now but I still have not finished the latest translation gig, which has grown into something quite gargantuan indeed. One more post on it when I'm through. Other goals this week:

  1. Apply for Fellowships (one proposal has already had to be aborted, unfortunately)

  2. Finish Translating the Yang Jiang piece

  3. Grade Student Outlines

Time until dissertation must be complete: 1 Year

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Daily Post, Weekly Plan

Art by Pop Art Machine

The new translation I took on is coming together slowly, with patches still in pencil and paper but to be typed soon. I've made 1.5 passes through all 15 major poems in the piece, which means that I've gotten through all poems and get the general sense of them but not necessarily every line. For example, a magnificent poem by Mei Yao-ch'en:
The ancients painted tigers and swans, these surpassed the categories of dogs and wild ducks. Now I look on painted feather and insects, the form and image both possessed in sufficiency, The promenader forceful as if leaving, The flyer turns over as if following. The warder-offer as if with raised arms, The cryer as if with moving throat. The jumper tensing his leg muscles, The looker-onner attending to his eyes. Then know the magic of the creation of things, Never to In Piling they muchly paint craft, Illustrate empty fill the piece. Were that master fruithfully the spirits accept, Sit among ministers with ceremonial costume. Grass roots have elaborate intentions, drunken ink gets its familiarity. True power no where in sight, honorable conduct even now is still alone. 古人画虎鹄,尚类狗与鹜。今看画羽虫,形意两俱足。行者势若去, 飞者翻若逐。拒者如举臂,鸣者如动腹。跃者趯其股,顾者注其目。 乃知造物灵,未抵毫端速。毗陵多画工,图写空盈幅。宁公实神授, 坐使群辈服。草根有纤意,醉墨得已熟。权豪不可致,节行今仍独。
This just screams to be done as if by Hopkins or Blake, but such skill will probably be sadly undealt during the week; I hope to settle for semantic soundness, however.

As I poked around looking for previous translations and other help with the poems, I found a poem with the most moving quatrain I've ever seen in Chinese poetry. Its just the opening of another poem by Mei Yaochen, "Sacrifice for a Cat:"

When I had my cat Wubai,
Mice didn't come after my books.
This morning Wubai died.
So I make ritual offerings now,
of rice
and fish.


Goals for the Week: 1. Finish this translation. 2. Go over the students' projects and get on those who are straggling.

More to come as I lay in the main text of the translation and refine my poems.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Theory: The Queen of America, chapter 2

"Luke" of 2 Live Crew, one of Berlant's unlikely allies in the fight to be treated like an adult in America

Berlant, Lauren. The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1997. In chapter 2, "Live Sex Acts," Berlant looks at the work of feminists like Andrea Dworkin, religious rightists like Jerry Falwell, and morality advocates from the left like Tipper Gore. It is perhaps no real surprise that these disparate agents share an unrealistic, idealized view of how citizenship and culture work. From a cultural perspective, all of these forces work to create nested parental publics that treat Americans by and large as vulnerable young people, and they hope to censor out any obscene culture. But they can't tell very well what "obscene" means, and this brings us to a strong political point: the close links between citizenship and a vague fantasy of moral behavior meant to protect a populace modeled loosely as a group of vulnerable children violates the equal protection rights of sluts and queers. And that is wrong.

Notes in my main file. Under the cut, quotes coming when I get back to the book.


The Uses of Literature: Responding to Challenges

From Shelton Walsmith's studio; photo by John Pack. Ten points if you can figure out how I got to this image from my theme.

As I was saying to my teacher JM last week, I think the reason my Fulbright application was unsuccessful was that I did not sufficiently explain, even to myself, the reasons for doing literature and the humanities. It was almost a good thing to have suffered that failure if it drives me to re-think what I'm doing and why.

As with "My Archive," this will be an entry that gets tagged and updated. It's clear to me that the main way for me to improve my writing next is to really push myself to go back to older writings, often one-shot comments on single topics, to improve them and connect them up with other things. My new outlining tool, checkvist.com, should make connections a bit more likely to happen as well.

So here's the new pattern I'm interesting in applying: first the outline of my reasoning so far, and then behind the cut, an immediate attempt to write out at least the main ideas contained in the outline, if not a complete write-up of the outline.

  • Chapter 0: The Uses of Literature: Responding to Challenges
    • 1. Compare subject to subject
      • The Postmodern Subject, for example
      • But why does it matter in a changing world?
    • 2. Show the social and political climate
      • Encouraging "civil society," for example
      • pointing out our vulnerability if we become too "infantile" : towards moral purpose.
      • pointing out the rise of conservative politics -- Berlant
    • 3. Share and compare artistic techniques
      • "Appeal" as a main question
        • Chaves:
        • Stanley Fish: Art has no practical use; that's its use
    • 4. Other sources: Perry Link 2000, Calvino 1986, Engel 1973, Felski 2008
Literature is a craft that reveals. Its main use value in the larger world of philosophy, the humanities, and the issues of the day seems to me to be concentrated in the revelatory power of literature: it shows us who we are. It exposes the human condition. It can give us guidance regarding the challenges we face.

To my present thinking, this revelatory power works on two levels that are connected in complex ways: first the individual, and then the scales larger than that of individual: society, nation, race, gender.

Literature reveals individuals: speaking, performing subjects whose experiences, memories and motivations have both differences and points in common between our own. So we read about these individuals to enrich our own sense of ourselves and others around us, as individuals. Are feelings and activities are described. Are fears and desires, as well. The main building block of this kind of writing is individual experience, real or imagined, realist or allegorical. In Tang Xiaobing's work on Wang Anyi, for example, the subject Wang Anyi is compared directly to the subject Julia Kristeva to argue that reading Wang Anyi would inform our sense of the postmodern subject generally while at the same time beginning to include China in the conversation.

On larger scales, literature can be used to show the social and political climate of a place and time. Translations of Turgenev into Korean are part of a story that shows the growth of the early Korean state, the differences from Japan, and the characteristic understanding of all Korean people as proletariat, for example. In Chinese literature and art, we examine the best that is available to consider its potential for developing (or at least calling for) civil society. Similarly, Lauren Berlant defined the concept of the "infantile citizen" in American cultural politics in order to diagnose a selfishness and thoughtlessness that she clearly believes is infecting us. Both this and the Chinese example reveal moral and political agenda to literary criticism: we don't just "take the temperature" of our social structures, we give a diagnoses and treatment plan, even if it is implicit (and in Berlant it is often explicit).

After this consideration, a worry begins to develop that the revelatory power of literature may overlook craft, which is the central interest of many who write about art and literature. The concept of appeal often enters the discussion, as it does when Chaves introduces his book on Mei Yao-chen. Though Mei is not famous in China, Chaves avers, we should not worry about that. We should only worry whether he is a poet that might have some "appeal" to English readers.

Beyond "appeal," I seem to remember that writers like Stanley Fish often say that literature has no use value, and this is its use. They might decry my focus on the revelatory power as a misconstruing of literature's use, which is not to tell me the spirit of the age, but to communicate only the artful imaginings of its producer. I must revisit this argument before I disbelieve it entirely.


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We are all wanderers along the way.