To World Poetry and Back: Avant-garde Classicist Poetry in the Sinophone Cyberspace

To World Poetry and Back: Avant-garde Classicist Poetry in the Sinophone Cyberspace


05.06.2024, 18:15 Uhr

Universität Bonn, Hauptgebäude, HS VI, am Hof 1, 53111 Bonn

Referentin: Prof. Dr. Zhiyi Yang (Goethe Universität Frankfurt)


Der Vortrag findet in englischer Sprache statt. Er ist Teil des Bonner Sinologischen Kolloquiums in Kooperation mit der Abteilung für Sinologie der Universität Bonn.



What is (or is not) world literature (or world poetry)? This was the central question of a debate raging in the early 2000s. The answers, however, seem quickly outdated in the era of digital literature. In this paper, I will first revisit this debate, before offering a guided tour to an “ethnic digital bookshelf” in the World Wide Web, where you may find a subgenre of literature that I call “sinophone avant-garde classicist poetry,” a bastard child of the classical Chinese lyric traditions and literary modernism. Yet, due to domestic biases entrenched in national literature and to its intrinsic resistance to translation, this poetry has so far won few readers beyond classically educated sinophone readers and academic specialists. In the end, I propose to redefine “world” as a verb, “to world” (welten), hereby providing new perspectives to the ongoing reconceptualization of “world literature” in general and “world poetry” in particular in the digital age. I argue that only poetry that demands its readers to overcome the cultural and linguistic differences and actively create a new worldly space can be called the genuine “world poetry,” regardless of its media, popularity, translatability (or the lack thereof). Sinophone avant-garde classicist poetry, through its active reengagement with the Chinese literary traditions, its literary modernity, and its contemporaneous reality, creates fresh and dynamic relations between the reader and the text, opening new dimensions to appreciate the power and vitality of the Chinese lyric language in the digital era. It hereby becomes a poetry that worlds by facing back at the past while stepping into the future.


images 1Zhiyi Yang has been a professor of sinology at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main since 2012. She studied Chinese literature, history, philosophy, and comparative literature at Peking University. In 2012 she received a PhD in East Asian studies from Princeton University. 2019/20 she was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Her research and publications have focused on classical (and modern classicist) Chinese poetry and its relation to society, politics, and intellectual history. She has published her first book on the 11th century poet Su Shi and has recently completed a monographic manuscript on Wang Jingwei, an early 20th century politician and poet who gained the unfortunate distinction as the chief Chinese collaborator with Japan in WWII. She is currently working on contemporary Chinese classicist internet poetry and on aesthetic classicism across the Sinophone space.


Please find more information about Prof. Zhiyi Yang here.