The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China

From Dreamscapes to Theatricality

Ling Hon Lam

Columbia University Press

The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China

Pub Date: May 2018

ISBN: 9780231187947

360 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£47.00

Pub Date: May 2018

ISBN: 9780231547581

360 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $59.99£47.00

The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China

From Dreamscapes to Theatricality

Ling Hon Lam

Columbia University Press

Emotion takes place. Rather than an interior state of mind in response to the outside world, emotion per se is spatial, at turns embedding us from without, transporting us somewhere else, or putting us ahead of ourselves. In this book, Ling Hon Lam gives a deeply original account of the history of emotions in Chinese literature and culture centered on the idea of emotion as space, which the Chinese call “emotion-realm” (qingjing).

Lam traces how the emotion-realm underwent significant transformations from the dreamscape to theatricality in sixteenth- to eighteenth-century China. Whereas medieval dreamscapes delivered the subject into one illusory mood after another, early modern theatricality turned the dreamer into a spectator who is no longer falling through endless oneiric layers but pausing in front of the dream. Through the lens of this genealogy of emotion-realms, Lam remaps the Chinese histories of morals, theater, and knowledge production, which converge at the emergence of sympathy, redefined as the dissonance among the dimensions of the emotion-realm pertaining to theatricality.The book challenges the conventional reading of Chinese literature as premised on interior subjectivity, examines historical changes in the spatial logic of performance through media and theater archaeologies, and ultimately uncovers the different trajectories that brought China and the West to the convergence point of theatricality marked by self-deception and mutual misreading. A major rethinking of key terms in Chinese culture from a comparative perspective, The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China develops a new critical vocabulary to conceptualize history and existence.
Ling Hon Lam’s book is a major breakthrough in early modern Chinese literary and theater studies. Lam challenges conventional wisdom that sees emotion as an expression of inner faculties, and seeks to reframe emotion as affective performativity, theatrical manifestation, and above all, spatial construct. He draws from performing arts and media studies, identifies philosophical and psychological contestations, and ponders the power of the theatrics of emotion both on the stage and in everyday life. Historically informed and theoretically provocative, Lam’s book will set a new standard for Chinese theater studies and cultural and spatial history. David Der-wei Wang, Harvard University
Brilliantly written and boldly conceptualized. Wei Shang, Columbia University
The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China is a daring rethinking of emotion as it was conceptualized in early modern China. Up-ending the dominant characterization of emotions, Ling Hon Lam shows that emotions were implicitly situations of space, conceived of and perceived in spatial terms. Challenging expectations and rectifying suppositions about the most basic level of human interaction with the environment and culture, Lam elucidates questions central to the philosophy of affect and to ontology from an unprecedented comparative perspective. William Egginton, Johns Hopkins University
Lam argues with verve that the vocabulary of spatiality and theatricality is crucial for understanding emotions in the Chinese tradition. From the earliest formulations of the functions of poetic articulation as a space of social, political, and cosmic resonance to the logic of self-division and of being a spectator to one's emotions in Ming fiction, Lam offers new and interesting perspectives on Chinese literature. Wai-yee Li, Harvard University
Sounds, including words, reverberate in spaces, including the “inch-space” of the heart. Framing the history of the emotions in original and surprising ways and undoing traditional oppositions between “inside” and “outside” through attention to the spaces that nurture or limit feeling, Ling Hon Lam puts Chinese vernacular literature in a new place and gives us the sensation of belonging to a continuous, centuries-long community of spectators. This is cultural history of astonishing scope and imagination. Haun Saussy, University of Chicago
A provocative, profound, and profoundly original rethinking of the history of Chinese literary thought and its literary manifestations in imperial and modern China, whose repercussions will be felt within Chinese studies and within world literary circles for a long time to come. Patricia Sieber, Ohio State University
Acknowledgments
Prologue: Weather and Landscape
1. Winds, Dreams, Theater: A Genealogy of Emotion-Realms
2. The Heart Beside Itself: A Genealogy of Morals
3. What Is Wrong with The Wrong Career?: A Genealogy of Playgrounds
4. “Not Even Close to Emotion”: A Genealogy of Knowledge
5. Time-Space Is Emotion
Notes
Index

About the Author

Ling Hon Lam is assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley.