Imperial-Time-Order: the “People” and the “Empire” in Historical Plays in Mao's China
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Speaker: Kun Qian
Is Mao’s China a nation state or an empire? Can an “empire mentality” be contained within the framework of nation state? This talk will examine the historical plays produced during the Maoist time in general, and Guo Moruo’s Cai Wenji (1959) in particular, to discuss the temporal structure working in and out of these historical plays. Taking Guo’s theory of “virtual focus” (seeking similarity at the expense of historical facts) as a point of departure, Qian suggests that the “virtual focus” is the juncture between history and reality that confirms a deeply-rooted historical way of thinking, defined as “imperial-time-order,” one that takes unification as normal and morality as the ultimate standard to judge a regime in history. In this regard, not only is history borrowed to mirror reality from the present’s perspective, but history also speaks to the present and is conducive to the construction of the “People” and the unified, multi-ethnic, modern Chinese “Nation.”
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About the speaker:
Kun Qian is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Film at the University of Pittsburgh. She holds a Ph.D degree in East Asian Literature from Cornell University, with a background of studying Economics and Finance at Peking University and Cornell University. She is the author of Imperial-Time-Order: Literature, Intellectual History, and China’s Road to Empire (Brill, 2016). Her current research deals with the relationship between literature and economic thought in modern China.