Dartmouth Events

Cybernetics and Autopoeisis in Chinese Literature and (Video) Games

A talk given by Paize Keulemans (East Asian Studies, Princeton University). Hosted by Yiren Zheng (Society of Fellows and ASCL).

Tuesday, May 23, 2023
4:30pm – 6:00pm
Carpenter 013
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories: Academic Calendar, Arts, Arts and Sciences, Homepage Featured, Lectures & Seminars

The Dartmouth Society of Fellows & the Asian Societies, Cultures, and Languages Program jointly present

Immersion without Mimesis: Cybernetics and Autopoeisis in Chinese Literature and (Video) Games

Paize Keulemans (East Asian Studies, Princeton University)

This event will be moderated by Yiren Zheng (Society of Fellows & ASCL)


In this talk, I employ the curious contradiction found at the heart of (contemporary) strategy games—the immersive power of imaginary worlds that are produced without mimesis—by tracing a lineage from the computational attractions of video-games to the use of basic binaries in Song-dynasty cultures of both games and poetry. In particular, I focus on the work of one of the more famous poets and “go” players of the age, the neo-Confucian philosopher Shao Yong (1011–1077). Rather than seeing literary text or strategy game as a copy of reality, Shao Yong regarded the binary play with black and white stones as the basis of endless productive powers, immersive attractions, and, ultimately, insight in reality. The logic of Shao Yong’s auto-poesis and philosophy sheds light on premodern Chinese literary aesthetics, early forms of cybernetic culture, as well as the attractions of contemporary video games.

Paize Keulemans is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University, who began studying Chinese language and culture in 1986 at Leiden University, the Netherlands. Since then, he has studied Chinese language and literature in a variety of places: Nankai University, Cambridge University, National Taiwan University, the University of Chicago, Beijing University, and has taught Chinese literature at Columbia University, and, most recently, Yale. Keulemans’ research interests are focused on the interaction between oral and written literature.  His book, Sound Rising from the Paper: 19th-Century Martial Arts Fiction and the Chinese Acoustic Imagination (Harvard University Asia Center Press, 2015), pursues this topic from an acoustic angle, investigating the way a plethora of sound effects (onomatopoeia, dia­lect accents, vendor calls, etc.) turn the silent pages of printed novels into a lively acoustic spectacle. His second research project, tentatively entitled, Idle Chatter: The Productive Uses of Gossip and Rumor in 17th-Century Chinese Literature, explores the relationship between oral and written literature from a different point of view, the seemingly endless production of printed hearsay, rumor, and gossip in early modern Chinese novels, short-stories, and opera. Keulemans specializes in early modern Chinese novels and opera, but his interests also include modern Chinese literature, contemporary Chinese film, Dutch-Chinese interactions from the 17th century onwards, and the adaptation of China’s great novels such as The Three Kingdoms into video games, the subject of his latest project, Old Novels, New Games: The Concept of Play in Late-Ming and Late-Twentieth Century Culture.

This lecture is free and open to the public. We welcome faculty, students, and staff with any disciplinary backgrounds. If you would like to have your access needs met to attend this event, please contact Yiren Zheng (yiren.zheng@dartmouth.edu).

For more information, contact:
Yiren Zheng

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.