Faculty & Staff
Paola Iovene, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor in Chinese Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Twentieth-century Chinese literature, cinema, and criticism; literary and critical theory; intersections of cultural production and social action; translation; documentary film.
My research and teaching engage with the debates, institutions, and reading practices that shape literary writing in modern and contemporary China. I am currently writing a book tentatively titled Tales of Futures Past: Literature and Anticipation in Contemporary China, which explores the visions of future worlds emerging from Chinese literature in the second half of the twentieth century. The book reconsiders the relation between socialist and postsocialist literature by linking together science fiction, experimental writing, and translation practices, with a focus on the 1950s and the 1980s. It interweaves two threads of inquiry: one that takes literature as an archive of past tales about the future, and the other that looks at how rhetorics of the future have shaped literary practices. While the first focuses on the literary texts themselves, the second considers the narratives about impending futures of literature mobilized within and across Chinese and global communities of writers, translators, editors, and critics. At the center of this study lies the notion of "anticipation," by which I mean the anxieties and hopes that also reconfigure the past. What is at stake for me in this project is a reappraisal of the historicity of literature as a partly opaque world of fictive possibilities, and of the enduring relevance of a notion of modernity as a forward-oriented mode of experiencing time.
I have a strong interest in cinema and media studies, particularly in postwar cinema and in contemporary documentary film. Documentary film is also at the center of my second project, which focuses on the dialectics of amateurism and professionalism, art and activism in contemporary Chinese culture.
I am generally interested in the interaction between different arts and media. My colleague Judith Zeitlin and I co-organized a symposium titled "Chinese Opera Film after 1949" at Chicago in April 2009. Many of the papers presented there were then published in a special double issue of The Opera Quarterly, for which I wrote the introduction. I recently started a project on 1960s Taiwanese opera film, which I hope to present at the follow-up conference on Sinophone opera film to be held in Beijing that we are organizing with our colleague Xinyu Dong in Cinema and Media Studies and with scholars based in China.
My courses are informed by a collaborative notion of literature, one that sees literary writing as deeply shaped by the dialogue between writers and readers. My primary goal as a teacher is to cultivate an attitude of openness toward the text. At the same time, I try to consider why particular texts become representative of a certain time and place while others are forgotten. Literary works, I believe, provide us with a special kind of historical knowledge not solely through the experiences they convey, but also because they push us to explore the material conditions that allow them to emerge and survive.
- Chinese Opera Film. A Special Issue of the Opera Quarterly, co-edited with Judith Zeitlin, vol. 26, issue 2-3, Spring-Summer 2010.
Articles and chapters:
- "Chinese Operas on Stage and Screen: A Short Introduction," The Opera Quarterly 26, 2-3 (2010): 181-199.
- "Phony Phoenixes: Comedy, Protest, and Marginality in Postwar Shanghai," in Sherman Cochran and Paul Pickowicz eds, China on the Margins. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010, 267-287 (in press).
- "Why Is There a Poem in this Story? Contemporary Chinese Literature, Li Shangyin's Poetry, and the Futures of the Past." Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 19, 2 (Fall 2007): 71-116.
- "Authenticity, Translation, and Postmodernity: Polemics around Han Shaogong's Dictionary of Maqiao," Annali dell'Istituto Orientale di Napoli 62, 2002: 197-218.
- Chinese Independent Documentary Film (winter 2008)
- The Writer and the People in Modern Chinese Literature (spring 2008)
- Chinese Avant-Garde Fiction in Context (graduate, spring 2008)
- Communities, Media and Selves in Modern Chinese Literature (fall 2008)
- Uprooting and Displacement in Chinese Literature and Film (graduate, fall 2008)
- Contemporary Chinese Literature: Writers, Critics, and Institutions (winter 2009)
- Reading Cultures II: Travel (winter 2009)
- Beijing in Literature and Visual Culture (University of Chicago Center in Beijing, Fall 2010)
- Communities, Media and Selves in Modern Chinese Literature (Winter 2011)
- Contemporary Chinese Writers and the Literary Field (Spring 2011)
- Tales of the Future in China and Elsewhere (Spring 2011)