Telescopes in Chinese Literature

Wed, Apr 29, 2015, 4:30 pm

Co-sponsored with the Tang Center for East Asian Art. 


Sarah E. Kile

University of Michigan

Thinking with Lenses:

Optical Technology in Literature and Visual Culture in Seventeenth-Century China

Beginning in the late 16th century, Jesuit missionaries brought scientific knowledge to China both in the form of translated texts and of material objects. While the astronomical success of foreign optical instruments at court is well known, the nature and scope of the influence of lenses produced by Chinese artisans using Jesuit knowledge remains understudied. This talk explores the incorporation of the newly introduced technology of glass lens crafting and various devices associated with lenses, such as eyeglasses, telescopes, and microscopes, into the rapidly commercializing culture of the late Ming and early Qing periods. I focus on three forms of assimilation and experimentation: commercial, aesthetic, and literary. I first introduce the production and marketing of lenses for commercial purposes, paying special attention to the question of the cultural significance of this new type of product. Then I engage in a comparative examination of visual and textual depictions of lenses and the range of practices and perspectives they inspired beyond scientific treatises. I demonstrate how, as lenses were deftly incorporated into longstanding literary and visual forms, they inspired new perspectives on issues of embodied perception, writing, craft, and intersubjectivity. I conclude by suggesting how analysis of the impact of new visual technologies on existing literary and visual forms holds promise for comparative studies of the early modern world. 

106 McCormick Hall

Upcoming Events

Site: The Impossibility of Remembering the Past at Nanjing

Tue, Mar 27, 2018, 12:00 pm
Location: 202 Jones

Time: The Memory of an Assassin and Problem of Legitimacy in the Wang Jingwei Regime (1940-45)

China in WWII: Wartime Everydayness and the Globalization of the Second World War

Return to River Town: Twenty Years in the Life of a Chinese City

Wed, Apr 4, 2018, 4:30 pm
Location: 202 Jones

Gender, Genre, and the Everyday: Analyzing Queer 'Lesbian' Potentialities across Japanese Media

Factory Girls: Reporting Among the Working Women of China and Egypt

Mon, Apr 9, 2018, 6:00 pm
Location: Prospect House, Room G

The Linguistics of Chinese Philosophical Keywords

Wed, Apr 11, 2018, 4:30 pm
Location: 202 Jones

Painting in Murderous Times, 885-975: A Discussion about the Tenth Century

The Twelfth Annual Marius Jansen Memorial Lecture: The Politics of the Japanese Emperor’s Abdication

A (Presumably Chinese) Tantric Scripture and Its Exegetical Practices: The Yuqijing (Yogin Sutra) in Medieval Japan