Michel Hockx - Professor of Chinese, SOAS, University of London; Visiting Professor, EALC Department, Harvard University
This paper discusses electronic poetry featuring aspects of the Chinese language, including original Chinese language works, Chinese translations of western works, as well as interactive e-poems that can be displayed in various languages. The emphasis is on ways in which aspects of the Chinese language are used to produce poetic experiences that rely less on the semantic value of words and more on visual stimuli and unconventional sound effects. Visual techniques to be showcased include the “textual morphing” of western writing into Chinese writing and back, used in the work of John Cayley; animated text in work by Jim Andrews and its Chinese language translations by the Taiwanese e-writer Shuen-shing Lee; and multimedia effects in works by the Chinese-American concrete poet Dajuin Yao. Recent experiments with the use of Flash technology in online poetry from the PRC will also be discussed. In its conclusion, the paper argues that online electronic poetry from the PRC is significantly less experimental than that produced by Chinese-language e-poets elsewhere. It will also show that PRC scholarship on “web poetry”, though theoretically highly sophisticated, is rarely able to draw on examples or case studies created in the PRC itself to make its arguments. The paper will offer the hypothesis that this discrepancy results from a strong lingering conservatism about poetry and poetics in PRC literary circles, which dictates that poetry should have strong communicative functions and that intelligibility must never be impeded. The audience will be invited to evaluate this hypothesis and to offer alternative explanations.