Past NYU Shanghai Reads Events 2023-2024

Fall 2023
Retelling Sci-Fi as Chinese Mythology

On September 6, NYUSH Reads opened with their first event of the academic year! Students, faculty and staff gathered together to attend a faculty salon with GPS Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow June Ke. She explored the intertextuality between the Chinese animated film “Big Fish and Begonia” and short story “The Way Spring Arrives”. Referencing Daoist philosophy, June highlighted the blurred boundaries between science fiction and Chinese mythology, complicating the dualities of “modernity vs. backwardness” and “nation vs. locality”. The talk illuminated the way that contemporary Chinese sci-fi, as embodied by literary works such as The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories and films like “Journey to the West,” puts forward a capacious definition of science fiction that is informed by Chinese cultural identity.

AI, I Love You...and I hope you love me

As the second part of the Faculty Salon Series, EAP Lecturer Paul Meloccaro was joined by 47 attendees to discuss humanity’s growing fear of AI displacing human creativity and thought. In response to the themes of virtual parenting, deceitfulness, and artificial reproductive technologies in Zhao Haihong’s short story “Baby, I Love You,” Professor Meloccaro addressed our underlying hopes and anxieties around AI as we become increasingly dependent on our robotic counterparts. He referenced NYTimes journalist Kevin Roose’s real-life conversations with a ChatBot and welcomed students’ dramatic readings of excerpts from the transcript. Why does a robot’s desire to ‘be alive’ make us feel so uneasy? Professor Meloccaro challenges the very qualities that make us “uniquely human”: theory of mind, culture, morality, language, and arts. Following Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud, another invention has displaced humans from the center of the world. As ChatGPT can write rudimentary essays and begin to “think” about philosophy, we are posed with the vital question of what makes us “quintessentially human”? Can humans and AI maintain a mutualistic relationship, instead of one of toxic dependency? Professor Meloccaro leaves us all pondering about these fascinating existential questions.

Expressions of Spring: Kick-Off event

The "Expressions of Spring: A Multi-Media Reflection Showcase" event, attended by 15 people, including faculty, staff, and students, was a success. It kicked off with a discussion on the relationship between literature and art, where participants exchanged ideas and marked the start of a semester-long art project, generating enthusiasm among attendees.

Throughout the event, plans for an upcoming showcase were outlined, promising a culmination of creative efforts that would encourage dialogue and broaden perspectives. The collaboration between the Queer and Ally Club and NYUSH Reads made it an inclusive event that allowed participants to explore themes of self-discovery, community, and acceptance through visual art, writing, audiovisual presentations, and discussions.

Behind the Story: A Conversation with Nian Yu and Xiu Xinyu

NYU Shanghai Reads was so excited to invite two authors of The Way Spring Arrives, Xiu Xinyu and Nian Yu, on campus to share their writing process with our university community on October 12. Gathered together in the intimate space of the World Languages Lounge, 10 attendees learned about the inspirations behind the authors’ short stories “The Stars We Raised” and “A Brief History of Beinakan Disasters as Told in a Sinitic Language”. From Orbeez water beads to a BBC documentary about the “Frozen Planet,” the authors revealed the many ways that the sci-fi genre is continuously responding to contemporary cultural and technological productions. As women writers, Xiu Xinyu and Nian Yu also touched upon the ways their gender identity unintentionally molds the shape of their stories into narratives that are distinctively “female”. The event ended on a high note with a rich Q&A discussion, as students, faculty and fellows inquired about various aspects of creative writing (e.g. the purpose of sci-fi, the authors’ vision of our collective future, the authors’ upcoming creative projects, etc.). For more information on the Author Talk, as well as our past and upcoming events, please see this article.

A Fish by Any Other Name

As a professional translator and Area Head of World Languages, Professor Allen Young gave an engaging talk about translation in Shen Yingying’s short story “Dragonslaying'' in The Way Spring Arrives. He was joined by 16 attendees, including students, faculty, staff, and Fellows. Beyond the fantastical nature of the short story, Professor Young entertained alternative readings of “Dragonslaying'' as a parable of gendering, cultural assimilation, and translation–a text’s “violent transformation” like the disfigured transformation of jiaoren 鲛人 in the narrative. Professor Young discussed the gendered representation of the Chinese mythical creature jiaoren in the English translation, centering on the use of the “they” pronoun in the short story. Towards the end of talk, students, faculty and staff members came together to discuss how they would translate a list of words from English to Chinese, or vice versa (e.g. queer, gender, 小鲜肉, 直男癌). As our community members walk away from this event, we hope that they will find pockets of time to wonder about the words we take for granted on this multilingual campus.

The Artistry of Linguist Comparisons

On Tuesday, November 21, NYU Shanghai Reads wrapped up its Fall events on a high note with Professors Beilei Gu and Meiling Chen presenting short stories “The Way Spring Arrives” and “What Does the Fox Say?” in a completely new light. They highlighted the musical components present in the stories and centered on the ways in which the intimate connection between music, literature, and culture deepens our understanding of the narratives. Professor Meiling Chen from the Performing Arts department gave live demonstrations of various musical textures and the evolving musical styles across history from the Western classical to Romantic period. By stressing different musical notes, Professor Chen illustrates the shifting semantics that are embedded in musical melody. Her graceful execution of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No.11 in A Major demonstrated that dialogue – in the form of questions and answers – are occurring throughout musical pieces. In the second half of the event, Professor Beilei Gu explores the ocarina (埙), a Chinese globular vessel flute, as a key object in “The Way Spring Arrives”. Alongside Professor Chen’s brief demonstration of the ocarina’s musical sounds, Professor Gu reveals to the 20 community members in attendance how one’s reading experience of these short stories can be meaningfully enriched by traditional folk tunes. Faculty, staff, and students alike learned the multitudinous ways that music can speak to us as a language on its own – how it tells a story, responds to itself, and kindles a range of emotional responses. Though the Fall semester is nearing its end, NYU Shanghai Reads is excited to announce that the program will be returning in the Spring with exciting new events. Please stay tuned for more!