The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China


Date and Time 
November 13, 2017
4:30pm to 5:30pm
East Asia (Lathrop) Library, Room 224, 518 Memorial Way

This event is for current Stanford students and faculty only.

Event Sponsor 
Stanford University Libraries, East Asia Library, Center for East Asian Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

This event is for current Stanford students and faculty only.

About the talk:
China's entry in to modernity was not just traumatic, but uproarious. As the Qing last dynasty fell, prominent writers compiled jokes to form collections called “histories of laughter.” In the first years of the republic, novelists, essayists, and illustrators used humorous allegories to make veiled critiques of the new government. Yet political and cultural discussion repeatedly erupted into invective, with critics gleefully jeering rivals in public. Farceurs drew followings in the popular press, promoting a culture of buffoonery. These expressions of hilarity proved so offensive to high-brow writers that they launched a campaign in the 1930s to displace old forms of mirth with a new one they called youmo (humor). What can we learn about history from those who laugh their way through it? Focusing on the case of China, this talk will discuss how political turmoil, new media, and other forces nurtured cultures of humor in a modernizing society, from the last days of empire to the digital age.
About the speaker:
Christopher Rea is associate professor of Asian studies and former director of the Centre for Chinese Research at the University of British Columbia. He is author of The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China (2015); editor of China’s Literary Cosmopolitans: Qian Zhongshu, Yang Jiang, and the World of Letters (2015) and Humans, Beasts, and Ghosts: Stories and Essays by Qian Zhongshu (2011); and coeditor, with Nicolai Volland, of The Business of Culture: Cultural Entrepreneurs in China and Southeast Asia. His most recent book, translated with Bruce Rusk, is a Ming dynasty story collection called The Book of Swindles (Columbia, 2017).