College of Humanities

The Art of Seeing: Another Chinese Realist Theatre in the 1920s

Thursday, October 3, 2019 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

Sierra Hall 120

The Art of Seeing: Another Chinese Realist Theatre in the 1920s

The Art of Seeing: Another Chinese Realist Theatre in the 1920s 

Presented by Dr. Man HE , Assistant Professor of Chinese at Williams College 

Introduction: The role of ideology in modern Chinese theatre has been well studied; but what about the role of sight? How did Chinese dramatists translate the realm of senses, newly shaped by their experiences of seeing the world around them, into works of theatre in the early twentieth century? How did modern Chinese theatre (or huaju, spoken drama) mediate the science, art, and act of “seeing” to overwhelm and formulate both spectators and dramatists? This talk analyzes Yu Shangyuan’s (1897-1970) early drama works as well as his visions and theories of realist theatre. Departing from views that hold that huaju either imitated anxiously the Western Other or remained blind to its ideological underpinnings, I argue that Yu grounded his realist theatre activities on sight, formulating an innate connection between the Neo-Confucian tradition of gewu (investigating things) and Ibsenesque “ocular realism.” In so doing, this talk aspires to answer a key yet much-neglected question regarding the aesthetics of huaju: what occurred when eyes- of characters, dramatists, and spectators - became the principal subject of modern Chinese theatre. 

A short bio: Dr. He has published journal articles and book chapters, including “Crossing the River and Ding County Experimental Theatre ” in A New Literary History of Modern China that was published by Harvard University Press in 2017 and “When S/he is not Nora” in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture in 2015. Recently, Prof. HE received The Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges (AALAC) Workshop Award for co-organizing “A Pedagogy Workshop on Teaching East Asian Performing Arts at Liberal Arts Colleges” in Swarthmore College. Prof. He also applies her expertise on film studies, especially on documentary films, to the language classroom and received the Cheng &Tsui SIG Award 2019. Currently, Prof. HE is working on her manuscript, Backstaging Modern Chinese Theatre: Cosmopolitan Intellectuals, Grassroots Amateurs, and Cultural Institutions, 1910s-1950s

This event is sponsored by CSUN China Institute and the College of Humanities. It is free and open to the public. Campus map is available at this link,, and public parking is available on campus Please contact Dr. Weimin Sun at (818-677-6461) for more information