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A Beautiful Future? Nature, Aesthetics and Inequality in Chinese Science Fiction

Date and Time: 
Thursday, January 24, 2019. 06:00 PM - 08:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Humanities Center Boardroom
Workshop: 
Environmental Humanities Project
Meeting Description: 

In this meeting of EHP's quarterly graduate workshop series, we will discuss Melissa Hosek's article "A Beautiful Future? Nature, Aesthetics and Inequality in Chinese Science Fiction." Science fiction from China has garnered growing attention from scholars and fans alike following its unprecedented popularity in recent decades. Liu Cixin’s 2007 trilogy The Three Body Problem is the most widely known sample of this genre, but a number of other authors have gained recognition in the field. Melissa's paper looks at works by two such authors, Hao Jingfang and Chen Qiufan, to contribute to the growing body of English-language scholarship on this subject. Several influential voices in Chinese science fictions studies have argued that this genre is the product of and response to incongruities in contemporary Chinese society which create inescapable political tension between citizens and the nation. Such incongruities include the acclaim for socialist ideals in the face of growing class inequality and the hopeful sloganeering of “The China Dream” while individuals grow increasingly pessimistic their own career and financial prospects. The purpose of Melissa's project is to follow upon this theory and investigate how authors identify, articulate, and critique such incongruities. However, Melissa's study departs from mainstream theories in that it is primarily concerned with how the environment is implicated in such articulations. Specifically, she asks how science fiction authors depict the role of nature and the changing human-nature relationship in their attempts to define and communicate contentious social incongruities. By analyzing Hao’s novella “Folding Beijing” and Chen’s short story “The Fish of Lijiang” through this lens, Melissa ultimately concludes that these authors view the manipulation of nature, particularly natural beauty, as a means of aiding and concealing the status quo. Not only do they shed light on how the environment is entangled in the construction of social power relations, but they begin to suggest how natural beauty then becomes a matter of environmental and social justice.

A draft of Melissa's paper, along with copies of the short stories she addresses, will be circulated prior to the event. You may also email vgoog@stanford.edu to request access.

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