Chinese, Sinophone and Comparative Literature: narrative spacetime, botanical monsters, literary sensory studies, urban memory, plant-human hybrids, ecocriticism across genres & a hovercraft full of eels
At this year’s ACLA conference, I participated in “Political Botany” a 3-day panel of thinking with plants and the human languages that are used to approach, understand, control, and enageg with them in text:
Seminar organizers: Jan Mieszkowski and Julia Ng
Day One (Thursday, June 16) The Soft Life of Plants: Toward a New Politics of Place — Anthony Curtis Adler “Chosen Shape”: Ruskin’s Bulbs as Critique of the Market Economy — Ayşe Çelikkol In the Forest, A Gnarled Tree: Benjamin, Brecht, wuyong — Julia Ng The Understory: The Overstory and the Arboreal Abject — Robin Blyn
Day Two (Friday, June 17) Poetic Resistance of African Vegetation — May Mergenthaler Post-Colonial Botany — Jan Mieszkowski Plants at the Margin — Anne-Lise François Algorithmic Flowers and the Politics of Classification — Markus Hardtmann
Day Three (Saturday, June 18) Désœuvrement, Singularity, and Naming: The Imperative of Unworking in Rousseau and Nancy — Saul Anton Companion Plant Reading: Vegetal Voices Across Languages — Astrid Møller-Olsen Garden Songs — Dominik Zechner Fruitonomy, Fruitography — Simon Horn
It performs a comparative reading of oneiric imagery in works by two different authors (Can Xue and Jorge Luis Borges) in two different genres (fictional short story and non-fiction essay) from two different languages (Chinese and Spanish), in order to challenge unidirectional notions of literary inspiration and allow them to sound together.
Though strikingly individual in her writing style, critics often compare the work of Can Xue (née Deng Xiaohua 1953-) to that of Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), an author whose writing she has analysed in detail in her monograph Interpreting Borges (解读博尔赫斯). This volume is itself a textual chimera, posing as a work of criticism, yet possessing much the same literary style and freedom as Can Xue’s creative writing. Borges approaches literary criticism and philosophical exegesis in a similar fashion in his non-fictions, many of which follow narrative patterns recognisable from his short stories in what literary scholar Ned J. Davidson calls “a successful amalgam of fiction and essay” and proclaims as “an acknowledged contribution of Borges to the history of genres.” Both authors, then, display a disinclination to separate practices of reading and writing. In this essay, I borrow Gaston Bachelard’s aural metaphor of poetic reverberation to study how literary inspiration works in ways more complex than the causal relationship indicated by authorial inspiration or, in aural terms, by source and echo.