Visiting professor sheds light on changing shape of Internet literature in China

Michel Hockx, 2015 Robert C. Staley Distinguished Visiting Professor

A modern genre of web-based literature has been transforming Chinese culture and society since the 1990s, and China scholar Michel Hockx has been following the development of Chinese Internet literature from its beginning.

Ranging from the self-consciously avant-garde to the pornographic, according to Hockx, web-based writing has introduced innovative forms, themes and practices into Chinese literature and its aesthetic traditions.

Hockx, professor of Chinese at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and founding director of the school's China Institute, visits ASU as the 2015 Robert C. Staley Distinguished Visiting Professor in East Asian Studies, hosted by the School of International Letters and Cultures.

In addition to interacting with the school’s faculty and students, Hockx will present the lecture “Internet Literature in China” from 4:30-6 p.m., Jan. 22, at The Oasis at College Avenue Commons, 660 S. College Ave.

"China's approach to the Internet is constantly in the news these days,” said Robert Joe Cutter, founding director of the School of International Letters and Cultures. “We are extremely fortunate to have Michel Hockx come here to speak on the topic of Internet literature in China. Not only is he a renowned scholar of modern Chinese literature, he is a keen analyst of web-based writing from China."

In his lecture Hockx, who conducted the first comprehensive survey in English on the phenomenon, will discuss the types of Internet literature taking shape in China and the unique aesthetic, political, and ideological challenges they face. And, he will explain how although the Chinese government strictly regulates the publishing world, it is increasingly tolerant of Internet literature and its publishing practices. Hockx’s research was recently published in the book "Internet Literature in China" (Columbia University Press, 2015).

Marking the 10th anniversary of the Staley Distinguished Visiting Professorship and lecture series, Hockx joins a list of esteemed East Asianists who have come to ASU to share their expertise regarding China, Japan, and Korea. In the past, the series has welcomed other leading scholars, such as last year’s Nicola Di Cosmo of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Hockx is the first Staley professor based at an institution outside the U.S.

“The generosity of Bob Staley in endowing the Robert C. Staley Distinguished Visiting Professorship in East Asian Studies has made it possible for us to invite internationally known authorities to come to ASU to share their knowledge with students, faculty, and community members,” Cutter commented, adding “We have had experts on China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia address issues involving history, politics, the environment, law, and literature. In addition to giving the public lecture, our Staley Professors have visited classes and met with students and faculty. This has added greatly to the intellectual life of the university and its international focus.”

Robert C. Staley established the Distinguished Visiting Professor in East Asian Studies Endowment at Arizona State University in 2003. Cutter addressed the significance of the 10th anniversary, stating, "We tend to regard ten years as an important waypoint in human events, a period long enough to demonstrate substance and commitment. Bob Staley has an abiding interest in East Asia, and a decade ago he had the foresight to provide ASU with the means to enhance our understanding of that increasingly important part of the world, no strings attached. This is a wonderful thing.”

“Our campus community would not have had the opportunity to learn from these scholars without the resources provided by Robert C. Staley,” explained Jill DeMichele, development officer senior for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “We are very grateful for his vision, which provides a unique educational experience for our students, faculty and the metropolitan Phoenix community.”

The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.