AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 466

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Session 466: Roundtable: Making Texts Strange

Organizer: Madeleine Yue Dong, University of Washington, USA

Discussants: Dorothy Ko, Barnard College, Columbia University, USA; Hsiao-wen Cheng, University of Pennsylvania, USA; Dandan Chen, Farmingdale State College, SUNY, USA; Cecily McCaffrey, Willamette University, USA

To scholars who must work with texts, such as historians, literary scholars and anthropologists, encountering a text resembles meeting a stranger. Even when the background is familiar, we would still be jolted by the uncanny appearance of this stranger. This panel problematizes the reading of texts by an experimental format: Each panelist will read and discuss the same set of texts in Chinese on the Qing woman poet, Gu Taiqing. They are selected in a way to avoid privileging previous knowledge of any panelist, and they cover a wide range of genres: poem, popular story, fiction, and academic study. We will make these texts available to the audience before and at the conference to encourage active participation. Through close reading of the sample texts, we reflect on issues such as: What do different genres of text do to produce meanings? What do we do to draw meanings out of texts? What kind of relationship do we establish with the texts and their authors -- do we assume a position of authority, or do we read as the audience that the texts intended to address? Do we establish dialogues with the authors, the texts, and their intended audience? These questions are pertinent to unconventional texts and those that have been made obscure by the analytic categories of modern academic disciplines, and thus particularly relevant to scholars of history and of other cultures. Once we stop assuming a one-on-one correspondence between “text” and “reality,” we might begin to envision a new history.