Earlier this month, I attended the conference Exploring the China Dream at Stockholm University – glorious good fun including more inspiring and informative presentations than I can mention here, so just a few samples:
At the panel on film and visual culture chaired by eminent organizer Elena Pollacchi, Prof. Paola Voci introduced us to different types of virtual soft power with hilarious and scary examples of short internet films like this one (》低头人生《 about what can happen to people who live with their heads glued to small screens).
Prof. Irmy Schweiger chaired my panel on dreams in literature, in which Martin Winter (who is much quicker on the keyboard than I am and has already blogged about it here and here) read us a poem by Xu Jiang and talked about his translations of Yi Sha’s dream inspired poetry. It reminded me of Jack Kerouac’s Book of Dreams as well as Nietzsche’s argument in The Birth of Tragedy that good art combines the Apollonian act of dreaming with Dionysian drunkenness.
My own presentation was a comparison of the dreamscapes in two short stories by Jorge Luis Borges and Can Xue. I talked about writing as a kind of literary incubation, the dream as a space of transgression/multiplication/splitting of the individual, and the Zhuangzi-like uncertainty about the reversible relationship between dreamer and dreamed pervading both stories. (Read my abstract here)
The conference convinced me that, even if the official China Dream campaign seeks to promote the kind of dream that pretends to look forward while really looking back (not unlike Trump’s rhetoric of “making America great again,” or the cultural conservatism of European neo-nationalisms), there exists an undercurrent of uncontrollable visual and literary dreams, which move in many direction at once, expressing anything from sharp political criticism to plain individual confusedness to aesthetic and existential curiosity.