AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 8

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Session 8: New Mediums, New Messages? - Changing Notions of Audience in East Asian Narratives

Organizer and Chair: Kelly J. Hansen, San Diego State University, USA

Discussant: Philip F. Williams, Montana State University, USA

This panel focuses on the intersection of technology and written narratives in China and Japan, particularly the manner in which the introduction of new mediums transform notions of audience in previously existing narrative traditions. Audience here is defined broadly as those who read, listen, observe, respond to, or otherwise participate in the text in question. Papers in this panel draw on both traditional narrative forms (Chinese baojuan religious texts for performance and tanci [Suzhou chantefables] storytelling), as well as twentieth-century genres (modern Japanese novels and manga), reprocessed by a range of technologies from lithographic printing and radio to Internet. The technological environments created through these new mediums can reshape not only the texts, but also the composition and role of the audience. Using the notion of audience as a starting point, this panel will examine the following questions. First, what is the connection between the introduction of a new technological environment and new or expanded roles for the audience (reader, listener, performer, contributor, etc)? Second, how does the shift or expansion of an audience to include marginalized groups such as women and/or children affect linguistic expression, content, application, and/or perceived literary, social or cultural value of the narrative? Finally, does the reprocessed product result in a transformed narrative with a significantly altered message, or is it essentially a repackaging of the original narrative?

The Advance of Print Technology at the End of the Nineteenth Century and the Transformation of the Baojuan Genre
Rostislav Berezkin, Fudan University, People's Republic of China

The 19th century saw the advance of new print technology (mechanized lithographic press) in China. The production of modernized print included numerous editions of baojuan (precious scrolls), texts of primarily religious content originally intended for oral presentation. This paper deals with the connection between the introduction of lithographic print in southern China (primarily Shanghai) and the development of baojuan as a literary genre. Baojuan had been printed by means of the woodblock technique long before the introduction of lithography. The use of this new technique led to a considerable transformation of the genre. These changes involve content, form and usage within the texts. I will demonstrate the partial transformation of baojuan from texts of ritual storytelling into popular-oriented reading materials. This transformation also led to the commercialization of baojuan editions. I will also discuss the specific place of this type of writing in the burgeoning market of fiction at the end of the nineteenth-early twentieth centuries. Significantly, the intended readership and audience of this literature included people of a modest educational level: mainly semi-literate, often illiterate people, especially children and women. This paper explores the role of baojuan texts in the education of commoners in modern China. Due to the paucity of historical materials on this subject, the paper makes use mainly of the information in the original editions of baojuan (which often appears in the form of prefaces, publishers’ notes and commercials), which the author studied in collections of baojuan editions in China, Taiwan, and the United States.

Acoustic Tales: Transmitting Tanci through Radio-Broadcasting in Early Modern China
Li Guo , Utah State University, USA

Tanci, or plucking rhymes, is a form of traditional chant-fable storytelling that has been popular in southern China since the seventeenth century. This project studies the performance-related tanci by a female tanci author, Jiang Yingqing, who rewrote historical narratives about women in tanci for radio programs in Shanghai during the 1920s and 1930s. I shall focus primarily on Jiang’s broadcasted tanci preludes (tanci kaipian), and study how Jiang made use of social media to gain access to a wider audience, and how traditional tanci narratives were materialized in a trans-media environment. I propose that the transmission of tanci through radio-broadcasting invites an assessment of tanci as polysemic media-texts that are imbued with new meanings through mass communication. By examining acoustic examples from the history of the Chinese radio industry, I investigate the theme of “sound in circulation,” and the role of radio broadcasting as a technology of circulating sound among specific historical, geographic, and cultural groups. When traditional tanci narratives are translated into electronic environments, the authors’ attempt to define text and textuality generates rich complexities and contradictions. The circulation of tanci through sound media takes its premise in a poetics of intimacy; through radio, the authors pass on entertaining and inspiring stories to an unlimited audience. For women writers, their experimentation with the radio medium fulfilled the broadcasting industry’s demand for entertaining programs, and empowered their presence in the social and cultural landscapes of the time.

Keitai Shosetsu: The Japanese Novel Hits the Small Screen
Kelly J. Hansen, San Diego State University, USA

Cell-phone novels have become commonplace in many cultures around the world, but particularly so in twenty-first century Japan, where a significant portion of the population today accesses the Internet primarily through cell phones rather than personal computers. However, keitai shosetsu, Japanese cell-phone novels, are more than simply a convenient, electronic version of a conventional novel. Written primarily by and for young women, these works have created new roles for both authors and readers by incorporating the discourse style of on-line User-Created Content into the creation process, thereby reprocessing the content of the novel itself. At the linguistic level, much of the simplistic language and nonstandard grammar which characterizes these works is borrowed directly from texting conventions, a strategy which allows for the creation of meaningful content within the limitations of the relatively small screens of Japanese cell phones. At the narrative level, keitai shosetsu reject the notion of an authoritative author reflected through a single narrative voice, instead highlighting the multiplicity of voices in the community of users who provide feedback and suggestions throughout the formation of the novel, which is normally serialized. Through reference to both prominent cell-phone novels as well as websites which disseminate these works, this paper will illustrate that the keitai shosetsu is not simply a low-quality version of the conventional printed novel, but a transformation in the creation and consumption process - and is redefining the parameters of the Japanese novel itself.

Old guard, new media: The Shojo Manga Industry and New Media Competition
Jennifer Prough, Valparaiso University, USA

Manga, as a genre, is a primary supplier of narrative stories in postwar Japan; indeed manga stories are translated into film, television, novels and theater. This is at least in part because the genre was promoted within the mainstream publishing industry. Yet recession and the development of new media in the past two decades have threatened the manga industry like other print industries. Focusing on three top manga publishing houses, Kodansha, Shueisha, and Shogakukan, this paper examines the ways that manga publishers grapple with competition from new media forms, especially video games and cell phones. In this paper I analyze the ways that postwar shojo manga magazines, in particular, are structured to be interactive beyond the pages of manga itself through contests and readers' pages that surround manga content. It is in these magazine events that editors and artists interact with their audience, while providing spaces for readers to participate, at some level, in the creation of shojo manga narratives. In the wake of competition from new media, large-scale publishers sought ways to extend the participation in shojo manga worlds, in order to retain their readers by enhancing interactive magazine features through their webpages and keitai (cell phone) manga. Thus, this paper interrogates the interactive features of shojo manga magazines, attentive to recent shifts in internet content and usage, asking in what ways readers are able to participate in the creation of shojo manga narratives, and to what extent the internet has begun to shift the parameters of such participation.