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Modern Chinese Humanities Seminar Featuring Ma Shaoling — The Stone and the Wireless: Lyrical Media and Bad Models of the Feeling Women
October 28, 2021 @ 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Speaker: Ma Shaoling, Assistant Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College
Authors often talk about their books via the introduction or the conclusion, and sidestep what lies in the middle. The title of my book, The Stone and the Wireless, refers to two figures that bookend particular communicative imaginations of the late Qing in my study, but it is the properly intermediary chapter, one that both connects and divides the first and second halves of the book, which fully bears the weight of mediation that is my central argument. Media, simply put, mediate between representations of communicative devices and processes, and the machines “themselves.” Women and what was deemed as the proper transmission of their feelings were not only appropriated as figurative means to the grander end of political and social transformations; they also cohered as literal, technical mediums, as exemplary female conduits. At the turn of the twentieth century, photography, and the new hybrid form of photographed biographies and autobiographies of exemplary women dramatize the transformations brought about by new media technologies through various constructions of female sentimentality specific to their formal structures: poetry, through lyricism; photography, through the tension between the photographic index and the deixis; and the text-image relation in photographed biographies and autobiographies. The question is not whether women can represent their gendered consciousness “in” these new mediums but to radically posit gendered consciousness as a lyrical medium, whose sheer instrumentality paradoxically short-circuits the project of nation-building. By comparing Huang Zunxian’s technological exploits of feminine, lyrical sentimentality with Qiu Jin’s “Self-Inscription on a Photograph,” written on the back of her own photographic portrait, this intermediary chapter attempts to retrieve women’s relationships to technology in ways that have not been co-opted by masculine-nationalist ideologies.
Shaoling Ma is Assistant Professor of Humanities at Yale-NUS College, Singapore where she works at the intersections of global Chinese culture, media, and history, and literary and critical theory.
Presented via Zoom Webinar
Also streaming on YouTube