News & Events
Topic: Shadow of Mei Lanfang in Barthes' Empire of Signs
Posted - 20/11/2000 : 18:38:10
Department of Chinese, Translation & Linguistics
Presents a lecture on
The Shadow of Mei Lanfang in Barthes'
Empire of Signs
Professor Haun Saussy
City University of Hong Kong
Time: 4:30 - 6:00 pm
Date: 13 November 2000 (Monday)
Venue: CTL Conference Room B7533, CityU
Abstract Bertolt Brecht's essay "Alienation Effects in Chinese Acting" (1937) sets up a contrast between the "Oriental actor," whose job is to reproduce a traditional array of gestures and sounds constituting his role, and the "Western" actor, who by becoming the role must strive to display an "genuineness" of emotion. Roland Barthes' travelogue The Empire of Signs (1971) borrows Brecht's contrast to talk about alleged differences in the semiotic behavior of East and West—extending Brecht's comments on technique to cover all social phenomena. Barthes' debt to Brecht is well-known, but Brecht's source of inspiration—a series of performances in Moscow by the great Chinese actor Mei Lanfang 梅蘭芳in March 1935—is more obscure. This seminar exploits contemporary documents to seek to understand Brecht's perspective on Mei as one of several contemporary responses to the Chinese "non-illusionistic" theatre by the Russian theatre and cinema world. A better knowledge of the issues surrounding Mei's visit then leads to a reformulation of the themes of Barthes' Empire of Signs, and puts a different twist on the mechanisms of "cross-cultural" interpretation.
Biography Haun Saussy is associate professor of Chinese and comparative literature at Stanford University. His publications include The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic, Women Writers of Traditional China (co-edited with Kang-i Sun Chang), and articles about poetics, translation and interpretation. The subject of today's talk is drawn from his latest project, a book manuscript tentatively entitled Group Tours: Adventures in Cultural China.
___________________ All are welcome ____________________