Hosted by the School of Humanities of UCASS, the International Symposium on Literature and Art: Dialogue between China and UK was held in Beijing on December 17, 2019. More than 10 experts and scholars from the University of Exeter, Birmingham City University, the Institute of Foreign Literature of CASS and the School of Humanities of UCASS joined the gathering to share their insights and engage with one another on the lasted research in English literature, poetry, art and drama.
While chairing the dialogue, Prof. Zhang Xian, the Executive Dean of the School of Humanities of UCASS, delivered a keynote speech to revisit the tremendous influence of English literature on the development of Chinese New Literature since the May 4th Movement (1919). Prof. Zhang also took stock of the history of exchanges between the literary communities of China and UK and where we are on research of English literature in China, underlining the positive impact this conference stands to make on enhancing mutual understanding between two research communities.
Philip Smallwood, Emeritus Professor of Birmingham City University, is a leading scholar on the famous British poet Dr. Samuel Johnson. By reading into Dr. Johnson's manuscript and reference made thereof on Confucius, Prof. Smallwood looked back on the literary exchanges between China and Britain since the 18th century alongside the booming trade that connects the East with the West.
Specializing in the theatre history of Victorian studies, Prof. Katherine Newey of the University of Exeter made an introduction of street theatres and pantomime performances, which have emerged with the rise of the working class since the British Industrial Revolution.
Qiao Xiufeng, Research Associate from the Institute of Foreign Literature of CASS, compared William Wordsworth and John Ruskin, two British poets that went through the social transformation of UK. By looking into the two poets’ diverging ways of resistance to railway expansion in the Lake District through emotion vs reason, Dr. Qiao built on Walter Benjamin’s concept of “Aura” to analyze the impact of emerging railway transport on how scenery is perceived.
Assoc. Prof. Liu Xuelan, Research Associate from the same institute gave an introduction of the life of the Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing, a renowned British writer alongside a review of the current state of play on translation and research of her works in China, in which context the characteristics of her African Narrative was further analyzed .
Representing the same institute, Assoc. Prof. Yu Minmei presented Claire Keegan's works and her feminism and the image of China thereof. Her colleague Assoc. Prof. He Yuwei also shared her comments on the Biography of James Joyce by adopting writer's, literary and biographical perspectives.
Dr. Xu Yue, as a young scholar of modern and contemporary Chinese literature and a poet himself, made his observations of where we are now on China's New Poetry and poetry writing and further reflected on the existing inequality between English and Chinese literature, by building on the concept of “world poetry” from American sinologist Steven Owen.
Following the series of talks, scholars from both sides delved into extensive discussions on languages, literary theories and localization efforts. Prof. Zhang Xian then concluded by pointing out the necessity of staying alert to bias and prejudices in the world of literary creation and theoretical research. More than ever, scholars need to strive for a breakaway from path dependence to truly recognize and cherish the merits of each others' culture.
According to the host, the International Symposium is one of the series of events organized by UCASS under the theme of the UCASS-UK University Academic Month. In the upcoming next week, the School of Humanities will invite Prof. Tan Tian Yuan, who is appointed to Shaw Professorship of Chinese at the Faculty of Oriental Studies of Oxford University, to jointly roll out another academic seminar on Fiction and Drama of Ming and Qing Dynasty: A Comparative Cultural Perspective.