Faculty

Wu Hung Explains How Western Concepts Have Drastically Shaped the History of Chinese Art

Wu Hung

The following was first published in Artnet News on April 25, 2019.

Throughout the history of Western art, certain concepts have remained durable. Style. Iconography. Representation. Even when these categories are being inverted or rejected, they remain at the foundation of most discussions of European and American art. But as useful as these terms can be, they also box us in—especially when we’re talking about art from outside the Western canon. With Chinese art in particular, these categories, which have had such a sweeping influence, can prevent us from other productive ways of seeing.

“All the concepts we use to study Chinese art are derived from Western art history,” says Wu Hung, a professor at the University of Chicago and a prolific historian of Chinese art, who is currently delivering the A. W. Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art. “In China, there were, of course, traditional discourses on art, even from as early as the ninth century. But they only dealt with calligraphy and painting. Sculpture and architecture were not considered art. So it was a very narrow art history.”

Throughout his talks, which are collectively titled “End as Beginning: Chinese Art and Dynastic Time,” Wu Hung is examining how Chinese art has historically been periodized, interpreted, and contextualized.

”In my talks, I deal with two kinds of materials, both of them historical,” he says. “One is the real object, the visual material. The other materials are historical writings, ritual prescriptions, mythologies.” The goal, he says, is to bring the two together to understand more fully the traditional purpose of an object, and the narrative it was originally meant to fit.

The below excerpt is adapted from Wu Hung’s first lecture, “The Emergence of Dynastic Time in Chinese Art,” which was delivered on March 31. His final three talks will be presented on April 28, May 5, and May 12.

Kenneth Warren Is One of Four UChicago Faculty Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Kenneth Warren

The following was first published in UChicago News on April 17, 2019.

By Louise Lerner and Jack Wang

Four University of Chicago faculty members have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies. They include Profs. Francisco Bezanilla, Mercedes Pascual, Margaret Beale Spencer and Kenneth Warren.

The scholars join the 2019 class of 214 individuals, announced April 17, which includes world leaders in academia, business, government and public affairs whose impactful work informs policy and advances the public good. This year’s class also includes seven UChicago alumni along with former First Lady Michelle Obama, who previously served as an administrator at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Kenneth Warren is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor in English, and an expert on American and African American literature from the late 19th century through the middle of the 20th century. He is the author of What Was African American Literature? (2010), So Black and Blue: Ralph Ellison and the Occasion of Criticism (2003) and Black and White Strangers: Race and American Literary Realism (1993). He has co-edited other books and written for various publications, and also advised Court Theatre’s award-winning 2012 adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

A member of the UChicago faculty since 1991, Warren was a 2005 winner of the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Five University of Chicago Scholars Earn Guggenheim Fellowships

UChicago Campus Photo by Drone Media Chicago

The following was first published in UChicago News on April 12, 2019.

By Louise Lerner, Sara Patterson, and Jack Wang

Five University of Chicago scholars have been named 2019 Guggenheim Fellows, chosen on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

Prof. Michael Bourdaghs, Assoc. Prof. Agnes Callard, Prof. Per Mykland, Prof. Robert Pippin and Asst. Prof. Sam Pluta were among the 168 scholars, artists and writers chosen this year from a group of almost 3,000 applicants. They will receive financial support to pursue a variety of projects—from Japanese Cold War culture to the fundamentals of data architecture.

Michael K. Bourdaghs
Prof. Michael K. Bourdaghs

During the four decades that Michael K. Bourdaghs has studied the Japanese Cold War culture, his scholarship has evolved from comparing Japan to America to examining Japan in a wider global context. The award-winning East Asian scholar will use the Guggenheim Fellowship to finish a book about the Japanese Cold War. He will evaluate its relationships to countries in the so-called First, Second and Third Worlds.

“I contend that a full understanding of Japan’s Cold War requires us to look at how Japanese artists and intellectuals were simultaneously participants in all three ‘Worlds’ of the Cold War era,” said Bourdaghs, the Robert S. Ingersoll Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

The idea for his new book started through teaching the UChicago course entitled “Japanese Culture of the Cold War: Literature, Film, Music.” Bourdaghs realized postwar Japanese culture was radically different when viewed through the lens of Cold War culture and when Japan was placed at the center of Cold War geopolitics instead of on the sidelines.  Japanese artists and intellectuals were simultaneously aligned with First World liberal democracies, while building ties to the socialist Second World and the nonaligned movement’s Third World.

John Muse Receives the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism

John Muse

University of Chicago scholar John Muse recently received the prestigious 2017–2018 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for his book Microdramas: Crucibles for Theater and Time (University of Michigan Press, 2017). “In Microdramas, John presents compelling and original arguments about the significance of short plays on the theatrical tradition, changing audience expectations, and time,” said Anne Walters Robertson, Dean of the Division of the Humanities.

Pages