Confusion, Misunderstanding, and Mutilated Testimony:

October 31, 2019 - 4:00pm

Lecture by Christopher Lupke, Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies and Chair of East Asian Studies at the University of Alberta

One of the grand ironies of the United States’ assumption to the role of global powerhouse in the post-World War II Era as “the leader of the free world” is how it turned a blind eye toward political repression in states perceived as essential to thwarting the expansion of Communism. High on that list is Taiwan, in which the people were subject to a brutal massacre in the month after the February 28th Incident of 1947 followed by decades of political suppression known as The White Terror. If in no other way, the reign of White Terror was successful in this: silencing not just dissent but the recording of suppression. This talk focuses on one major event in Taiwanese cinema: the release of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s masterpiece A City of Sadness in 1989. The work is structurally obscure in some key ways, but this presentation argues that the very obscurity of the film actually performs the problem of recollection, the difficulty in presenting a complete and accurate image of what happened in the heady days of 1947 and thereabouts. The film is not just a testament to this long-suppressed violent past in Taiwan. It actually exemplifies the mutilated quality of the historical record and collective memory, thanks to the pervasiveness of authoritarian rule in Taiwan.


Christopher Lupke (Ph. D. Cornell University) is Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies and Chair of East Asian Studies at the University of Alberta. He is the author of The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien: Culture, Style, Voice, and Motion (Cambria Press; 2016) and most recently co-editor with Paul Manfredi of Chinese Poetic Modernisms (Brill). Lupke was a member of an eight-person team that produced the five-volume Wiley Blackwell Companion to World Literature, which will be published in January.

Location and Address

Alcoa Room, Barco Law Building, 3900 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15260