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China’s Emily Dickinson: Disability, Gender, and Online Literature, Pt 3: Poetry Reading & Conversation

April 27, 2017 -
6:30pm to 8:30pm
East Asia Library, Rm 224

For more detail, please contact the event organizer Hang-Ping Xu at hangping@stanford.edu.

Yu Xiuhua’s poem “Crossing Half of the Country to Sleep with You” (chuanguo dabange zhongguo qu shuini) went viral online in 2015 as Chinese netizens enthusiastically tweeted the poem and her life story. Almost overnight, she became a household name. It was a success story of social media (Wechat). Following her tremendous popularity, however, journalists from within the system flocked to her village. Many publishers contacted her, and in no time Yu had secured three published volumes of poetry, enjoying a commercial success. Yu has been called “China’s Emily Dickinson.” Yet the public reception has relentlessly sensationalized Yu in the context of her disability (severe cerebral palsy) and backward rural background. Whenever publicized, she is always labeled as the “brain-paralyzed peasant poet.” And Yu’s triply-marginalized identities—class, gender, and disability—have triggered nation-wide discussions about issues like income inequality, enabling the society to articulate its moral identity and ease its political anxiety. In 2016, the Chinese director Fan Jian made a film entitled Still Tomorrow (yaoyaohuanghuang de renjian) telling Yu Xiuhua’s poignant story; the film documents Yu’s yearning for sexual and emotional intimacy, a fundamental human right not readily available to persons with disabilities. The film won the Special Jury Award for feature-length films at the Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2016, arguably one of the highest honors for documentary filmmakers. 

Sponsored by the Confucius Institute and co-sponsored by the Program of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies as well as the Department of Anthropology, this event (April 26 and 27) will bring Yu Xiuhua and Fan Jian to Stanford. 

The event consists of 3 parts: 

  1. April 26: Screening of Still Tomorrow followed by Q & A with the director
  2. April 27: A roundtable discussion participated by scholars (confirmed speakers include Haiyan Lee and Matthew Kohrman); and
  3. April 27: Poetry reading and conversation with Yu Xiuhua

Not only does this event bring Yu’s poetry and Fan’s documentary film to our campus, but it also seeks to explore the rise of Yu Xiuhua as a cultural phenomenon reflective of contemporary China’s social-political reality, focusing on several critical issues such as disability, gender, social inequality, and online literature. 

For more detail, please contact the event organizer Hang-Ping Xu at hangping@stanford.edu.