Dr. Shengyu Wang
Fellow in the project „Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change“ (May-July 2023)
Shengyu Wang is a scholar of pre-modern Chinese literature and comparative literature, with particular interest in the Chinese anecdotal tradition, popular religions, print culture, and translation studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago and has taught in both China and North America. His research has been published or is forthcoming in Comparative Literature, T’oung Pao, Folklore, and Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies. He is the recipient of the 2022 Stephen C. Soong Translation Studies Memorial Award.
ProjectNarratives of Steam Navigation and Epochal Change in Early Chinese Periodicals
During the late Qing era, modern means of transportation not only significantly altered Chinese life but also accelerated the disintegration of the traditional Sinocentric view of the world. Steam-powered vessels—especially gigantic seafaring steamers arriving in large numbers after 1870—struck late-Qing Chinese intellectuals as potent indicators of newfound mobility, epochal change, scientific advancement, and Western military-industrial superiority. Together with the postal service, telegraph, and railway, steam-powered vessels shortened spatial-temporal distances and fostered a strong sense of the world as an interconnected totality. In this project, I treat late-Qing periodicals as a rich and vital source for exploring the discursive and epistemological shifts catalyzed by the advent of steam navigation in China. My investigation will cover a wide variety of visual and verbal narratives featuring steamship, with special attention to those that bear upon the issues of global circumnavigation, maritime disasters, and naval warfare. My main purpose is to gain a better understanding of how worldmaking technologies engendered conceptual changes in the realm of culture. Furthermore, I will probe into the crucial role that early Chinese periodicals played in mediating the public imagination of epochal changes.