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Lindner Family Commons Elliott School of International Affairs, 602 Free Event

Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E St NW, Washington D.C, 20052

Free Event

One of the great themes of modern Chinese and Sinophone culture is the emergence of new forms of individual identity that break free of the confines of what May Fourth intellectuals such as Lu Xun, Wu Yu, Chen Duxiu, Ba Jin, and others have imputed to filiality 孝, one of the cornerstones of traditional Chinese thought, ethics, and subject-formation. But filiality has not retired from the scene of intellectual discourse as quickly and easily as some had thought it would. The modern era is in one sense a battle between the time-honored obeisance to one’s elders on the one hand and individualism on the other. This Manichean conflict presumes that we think of filiality in terms of duty: devotion to one’s parents and ancestors; heterosexual bonding and marriage; the production of biological heirs, especially sons; and honorable deeds that bring pride to parents and family.

Deeply engrained in Chinese society since pre-Confucian times, and codified by Confucius, Mencius, and their followers, the filial structure of selfhood and conduct is virtually synonymous with the fundamental essence of Chinese culture in its purest form. This is only true if we conceive of filiality as a prescribed protocol for upright behavior. But what about the feelings associated with filiality? In a recent book that promises to redraft our perspective on filiality, Maram Epstein seeks to place affect, or the emotional component of human existence, at the forefront of our understanding of the nature of filiality, suggesting that the modern repudiation of filiality has tainted our entire thought-structure as to what filiality means historically and how it functions.

Epstein’s work on Ming and Qing China has prompted Professor Lupke to reflect on his own understanding of filiality, asking how it fosters emotional bonds such as affiliations to one’s parents in positive ways. In this presentation, Professor Lupke will use his refreshed attention on affect to explore the emotional terrain of filial relationships in contemporary Sinophone works. He will examine works by Huang Chunming, Bai Xianyong, Wang Wenxing, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and the contemporary US-based poet Zhang Er. At issue is the crucial role that overwrought emotions play in the filial dynamic in intergenerational relations that we see so much of in the Sinosphere and in Sinophone cultural production.

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