"Reading as Surveillance Work: Yu Jian's File Zero"
Censorship is often imagined as a bureaucratic process in which a government deletes or suppresses an artwork. This lecture will examine an extended concept of literary stricture -- the creation and maintenance of the constraints that limit literature -- as it carefully reads Yu Jian's epic 1994 poem "File Zero." "File Zero" takes place in a file room in which the poem's reader unlocks, accesses, reads, and then edits the poet's surveillance dossier. By citing Chinese government traditions of surveillance, the poem reveals the power and the governmentality of all readers, and by extension the suppressive and shaping power of the literary field, the market, and of the hermeneutic act. In its second part, the lecture will use Yu Jian's insights to reopen Foucault's questions about scholarship, viewership, and power. Can scholarly analysis resist or exceed participation in the authoritarian's centralization and weaponization of knowledge?
Nick Admussen holds an M.F.A. in poetry writing from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Ph. D. in East Asian Studies from Princeton. He is the author of _Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry_, the translator of Ya Shi's poetry collection _Floral Mutter_, and the author of five chapbooks of original poetry. His research has appeared in journals including _positions: asia critique, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture_, and _CLEAR_. His work applies close reading, translation, techniques from sociology, and literary theory in an attempt to understand contemporary poetry and contemporary society; his newest project is on literary stricture in Chinese poetry and American culture.