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Seminar in History of the Book: Robert E. Hegel (Washington University in St. Louis)

Robert Hegel on "Reading the Illustrated Texts of Late Imperial China," with a response by Brian McHale (English).

Recent scholarship has sought to place the great novels and short story collections of early modern China firmly within their original cultural contexts. But most scholars are concerned with how those narratives engaged current philosophical values and artistic fashions. Further examining the book as a physical object reveals meanings inherent in its materiality that might not be obvious from content alone. A combination of “distant reading” (Moretti) and close examination of the books themselves has inspired new research into popular print culture; scholars have discovered previously overlooked textual affinities between books of all kinds, joined by common methods of production and circulation. Hegel's research has proceeded one step farther, into the conventional elements of book illustrations and their role in the total reading experience. His comments will focus on the reading experience when the novel in pre-modern China reached the height of its development, during the eighteenth century.

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