“The Forum on Foreign Literature Studies in the Context of Global Changes”, Shenzhen, September 2020
On September 26th, The Forum on Foreign Literature Studies in the Context of Global Changes, was held both on-site and virtually in the School of Foreign Languages, Shenzhen University, and invited eleven renowned researchers from top universities in China as speakers and participants. A total real-time viewer count of 7,000 was recorded.
The opening ceremony was chaired by Prof. Zhang Xiaohong, Dean of the School of Foreign Languages. Prof. Zhang Xueji, Vice President of Shenzhen University delivered a welcome speech. In his address, the history of Shenzhen University and its course of development together with the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen was reviewed, highlighting the progress SZU has made in disciplinary construction and development. In his view, the forum represented a timely response to the changing global landscape and major social concerns. Present at the forum were also three Forum Chairs, Prof. Jin Li from Beijing Foreign Studies University, Profs. Li Xiaojun and Zhang Guangkui from Shenzhen University; and one academic commentator, Prof. Ning Yizhong from Shenzhen University.
(Photo / Offline forum participants in Conference Room 1200, School of Foreign Languages, Shenzhen University.)
(Snapshot / Hosts and Attendees during the virtual opening ceremony of the forum)
The first keynote speech was delivered by Prof. Chen Zhongyi, Academician of CASS and editor-in-chief of Foreign Literature Review. According to Prof. Chen, world literature without quotation marks is obviously different from "world literature" with quotation marks. The former is objective, while the latter is a rationalist construction. He indicated that in this field of research, domestic researchers in China no longer follow the lead of Western scholars but return to historical materialism and use it for our own purposes. In this global change, the writing of academic history, ethics and sociological criticism became significant for a return to common sense and shaping order out of chaos. At the same time, he also noted that studies at home and abroad are still facing challenges and problems which need to be clearly understood and actively dealt with.
Prof. Zhang Jian from Beijing Foreign Studies University expressed that the narrative of foreign writers in China is bound to receive more and more attention under the extensive global changes. Taking Auden's Chinese Sonnet and Ginsberg's Chinese poetry as examples, he pointed out that although academia is quite familiar with such works, there is an urgent need to find new ideas based on the research of predecessors like Zhao Yiheng and Wen Chu’an. In his opinion, it is necessary to combine Western travelogue, traditional and other discourse resources to find new perspectives and go beyond the simple paradigm of undertaking impact studies, so as to introduce the study of foreign writers' works on China into a more complex and profound level.
Prof. Qiao Guoqiang, Yangtze River Distinguished Professor, Ministry of Education and Professor of English at Shanghai International Studies University, discussed the dialectical relationship between "variability" and "invariability" in the study of foreign literature in the context of the global change from the perspectives of definition and observability. Taking Isaac Bashevis Singer as an example, he gave two definitions of the concept of "great global changes" and pointed out that the changes in literature, brought about by social changes, were gradually presented. In the end, he summarized the main points under the global changes, emphasizing the vigorous development of Internet literature and ecological writings since the 20th century.
Prof. Zheng Yanhong of the School of Foreign Languages, Hunan Normal University, mainly discussed how to persist in literary creation and research under the global changes. In her view, it is necessary to make sure that reading literature always nourishes humanity even in times of popularization and spiritual vulgarization. In literary creation, she took a poem praising Zhong Nanshan as an example, emphasizing that we must pay attention to the Chinese society and uphold the beauty of faith and nobility. Bearing on literary research, Prof. Zheng put forward the key issue of how to make literary criticism original. Taking the Alexander von Humboldt Research Center at Hunan Normal University as an example, she expressed the viewpoint that only by adhering to China's position and contributing Chinese perspectives can we effectively contribute innovative fruits to the global culture.
Prof. Peng Qinglong, Distinguished Professor of Shanghai Jiaotong University, presented a lecture about building a “technology-humanity community with a shared future” and the impact of science and technology on literary criticism. In his opinion, separations between disciplines and within the system have constrained communication between science and technology and humanities, and humanities and social sciences can play an important regulating role in ethics, morality, spirit and the legal system, so as to build a community with “technology-humanity community with a shared future”. On the other hand, he reviewed the influence of scientific and technological power, represented by quantum thinking, on the disciplines of narratology and philosophy, and put forward the influence of science and technology on literary creation from four aspects, including writing themes, imaginary spaces and dimensions, literary genres and forms of expression.
The afternoon session of the forum started with a speech delivered by Prof. Cheng Wei, Vice Dean of the Institute of Foreign Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Associate editor-in-chief of Foreign Literature Review. He combed through the evolution of the changes from a global and historical perspective and tried to dispel the “spectre of centralism”. Citing the arguments of Li Hongzhang, Prof. Cheng presented the development of the keyword “global change” from the early modern times to the present, and pointed out the difference between the notions of “change” in these two time periods. Later, he reminded Chinese scholars not only to break with the shackles of Western centralism, but also to prevent Chinese centralism, through a case-study of the emergence of the so-called History of English Literature. In this way, Prof. Cheng expects to make possible an equal, free and fair writing on the ontogeny of Foreign Literature from a global perspective.
Prof. Cao Li, Director of European and American Literature, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University, summarized and reviewed the present values of Prof. Wang Zuoliang's academic thoughts. She began with the word "correspondence", which serves as a clue to outline Mr. Wang Zuoliang's clear academic ambitions, research methods and life-long academic pursuit. From the perspectives of a poet, a translator, a literary historian, and an educator, she presented the image of a great literary expert with a good command of poetry and history himself, and at the same time one that always cared for his academic successors. She expressed that in the face of the global changes, we should stick to Wang Zuoliang's academic pursuit of “learning across the globe and the span of history; taking roots in China and looking into the world”, and make it lasting and enlightening for future generations.
Prof. Luo Lianggong, Dean of the School of Foreign Languages, Central China Normal University, expounded on how to develop transnational literary community research in African Literature. By expounding the definition and necessity of "a community of transnational literature", he expressed the view that in the face of the complicated discipline of African literature, a single intra-national study of African literature is no longer enough to reveal the overall ecology of global African literature. Therefore, he called for the construction of a new coordinate of such a translational community in African literature based on regional African studies. The development of this field not only enriches the study of world literature, but will also provide a service to the international strategy of China.
Prof. Yang Guozheng from the School of Foreign Languages, Peking University, focused on the phenomenon of “smallness” in contemporary French literature. Prof. Yang first presented the political, economic, social and cultural background of France since the 1970s. He found that French literature had entered a "small" era, manifested in overflowing liberalism and hedonism, the loss of the salvation function of literature, and the alteration of individuals into isolated and atomized "elementary particles". Yang also raised a series of thought-provoking questions, such as whether literature in the context of global change will welcome its rebirth in a new style as it embraces more new elements.
Prof. Yang Jincai, Yangtze River Distinguished Professor, Ministry of Education and Professor of English at the School of Foreign Languages, Nanjing University, reviewed the study of American literature in the new century in his speech. He reviewed the focus of American literature in the new century, such as the writing about trauma, warfare, and immigration. He also made a wonderful comment on the rising trend of unilateralism and anti-globalization in the global changes. In his opinion, foreign literature research must face the world strategically and speak for Chinese academics. It must be based on the historical position of "the great change", focus on the writing of China and its cultural representatives, break through the encirclements of foreign theories, and highlight the perspectives of “the other culture” in foreign literature studies.
These three sessions were chaired by Profs. Jin Li, Zhang Guangkui and Li Xiaojun, respectively. After the keynote speech, the closing ceremony was held. At the closing ceremony, Prof. Ning Yizhong delivered his comments, and Prof. Zhang Xiaohong, Dean of the school of Foreign Languages, presided over the ceremony and delivered the closing speech. Prof. Ning referred to the speeches as “a strategic standpoint, an innovative viewpoint and an educational after-taste”. In his concise comments on each speech, he expected more scholars to continue to spread their ideas and promote the prosperity of foreign literature in Shenzhen, a land of reform and opening up. In her closing address, Prof. Zhang Xiaohong summarized the theme of all keynote speeches with three keywords: “the current political situation, region-specific studies, and academics”. She proudly concluded that with the strong development of Shenzhen and Shenzhen University in the past four decades, the School of Foreign Languages, as one of its descendants, is bound to put its best efforts into constructing a world-class innovative university of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
(Photo / Prof. Zhang Xiaohong, Dean of the School of Foreign Languages（left）,, Prof. Zhang Xueji, Vice President of Shenzhen University（right）)