Recent Shows & Talks

  • Celebrating Hong Kong Writers

    NYU Shanghai continues to expand its interest and involvement with the literary arts, hosting readings by celebrated writers from all over--all thanks to the dedicated efforts of Writing Program Lecturer David Perry, co-curator of the Literary Reading Series.  The two day mini lit fest finale brought together translator of contemporary Chinese literature, Andrea Lingenfelter, leading Hong Kong fiction writers Hon Lai-chu and Dorothy Tse, and American poets both living in Hong Kong, James Shea and Collier Nogues. How exactly did David reign in these all-stars? Read on to find out.


    How did you plan for fascinating "literary fireworks” of the Lit Fest?


    I hadn’t thought of them as fireworks, but that’s an interesting way to think of it. There’s a poetics and poetry of fireworks, and fireworks, whether planned or impromptu, tell stories, there’s a narrative form.


    I think we’ve just tried to create a space – the Writing Program’s Literary Reading Series, which I co-curated this year with Chidelia Edochie – in which talented visiting writers and translators can simply do what they do so well. As with fireworks, I try to set it up and then get out of the way so we can all sit back, watch and listen. A simple formula: Invite fantastic writers and let them do their thing. It’s been wonderful, too, that audience members have asked so many excellent questions.



    So, how did you line up the speakers?


    Andrea Lingenfelter is a great translator of contemporary Chinese literature. Her connection with NYU Shanghai goes way back – she’s given guest workshops and done two readings with us over the past few years. Her translation of Hon Lai-chu’s hyper-surreal Hong Kong-rooted stories, The Kite Family, had just been published, and I knew I wanted them to read at NYU Shanghai.


    And I met the poets James Shea and Collier Nogues in Manila at the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Conference. They’re both US citizens living in Hong Kong and are a part of a community of writers and translators resident and/or based in Hong Kong.


    Finally, a visiting poet and translator who appeared in the fall reading series, Sawako Nakayasu, introduced a group of our creative writing students to Dorothy Tse’s fiction. I loved her style; I find it almost hallucinogenic in its presentation of super-high-pressure Asian urban life. So, I asked Andrea and James and Collier, and it turned out everyone knew one another very well—they’re all part of a vibrant Hong Kong literary community. Hon Lai-chu and Dorothy Tse share a publisher and have co-authored a book, A Dictionary of Two Cities (雙城辭典).


    In the end, I invited too many writers to fit comfortably into one event so we expanded it to two nights… Et voilà! Writers! Lit Fest! Fireworks!


    What is the take away from the juxtapositions you orchestrated that we should all carry with us into the summer?


    Read lots of contemporary writing and look for places, communities, where there’s a lot of intensive cross-cultural (and therefore multilingual, inter-lingual) mixing and experimentation and awareness. Of course a great place to start would be by reading work by Hon Lai-chu, Dorothy Tse, Collier Nogues, James Shea and Andrea Lingenfelter. Pay attention to what’s happening with writers in Hong Kong! People everywhere have a lot to learn from such sites of intensive hybridity, cultural volatility, exchange, and decoding and recoding, and it seems to me like there’s a generous culture of literary exchange, community cultivation, mutual aid… and I’m excited to learn and read more.


    What did you hear in each of the readings that you did not expect?


    The effect of hearing both Hon Lai-chu and Dorothy Tse read some of their work in Cantonese. I loved how, in conjunction with hearing the translated English versions and seeing the projections of the printed page, in both Chinese and English, the audience was, with a few exceptions, hearing the writing in the language of composition—the unique rhythms, intonations, the sound—while hyper-aware of interpreting it all through and alongside translations into Mandarin as well as English. I found it both aesthetically and intellectually exciting. There’s the music of the Cantonese happening while all kinds of questions regarding translation, culture, and history pop to mind, and then there’s the actual narrative, the story itself, and the amazing and disturbing things the stories’ characters encounter, think, say, do. A kind of fireworks, even.



    The attendance and the questions underscore a deep interest for literature at NYU Shanghai. Did you expect that?


    We’ve been doing this as we develop NYU Shanghai’s Minor in Creative Writing curriculum, and I know from our enthusiastic and talented creative writing students how much interest there is. I’m very happy too that so many visiting writers have led guest writer workshops, not only for students enrolled in creative writing courses, but also for any and all interested students, faculty and staff.


    We’ve also worked to bring in people from outside of the University in. With the emphasis we place on translation, we’ll be working to bring in more Chinese-language writers from Shanghai and beyond, which will bring in a lot of people from throughout the city from various local communities and scenes. We’re connecting to other universities, too, both within China and globally, and I think NYU Shanghai can become a valuable part of a larger network of writers, translators, readers, and scholars active throughout the region that can support and facilitate exchange and collaboration and present writers and their work to the public.


    And of course, there’s also a healthy English-language audience out there too – just look at the success and popularity of M on the Bund’s International Literary Festivals.


    There’s a lot of interest and we’re getting better at getting the word out.


    Can we expect more in the future? What are your plans?


    In the fall and spring of 2017 we have a new series in the works. We’re working on finalizing the schedule and we’re looking forward to a great mix of fiction, poetry, and creative and narrative nonfiction from more outstanding writers and translators.


    Anything else you want to say?


    I’m grateful for the support the University has provided, and especially for the hard work of the initial literary series organizers, Lucia Pierce and Daniel Cuesta, for having done so much to make this all happen last year.

  • Narrating Shanghai Lives

    The Literary Reading Series at NYU Shanghai, a project of the Writing Program, brings acclaimed writers from around the world to our Shanghai campus. This Spring, we welcome renowned China correspondent Rob Schmitz.

    Home to more than 24 million people, Shanghai is rich with human stories — many of which will go untold. Curiosity for these unreported lives led award-winning journalist Rob Schmitz to look beyond politicians, business leaders and celebrities, to document the man and woman on the street. At the NYU Shanghai Literary Series, he shared excerpts from his soon-to-published  first book, Street of Eternal Happiness, a captivating portrait of contemporary China as seen through the personal lives of a group of Shanghai residents.

    Street of Eternal Happiness was inspired by observing contemporary life along Changle Road in the Former French Concession. As Schmitz began to investigate the history of his surroundings, he was drawn to the stories and secrets hidden behind the walled houses.

    "News comes up every two minutes in China. As a journalist, because of the volume of news in this country, it seems there is too much to focus on," said Schmitz, who reports for American Public Media’s Marketplace program.

    What began as a series of informal interviews, soon became a bigger narrative nonfiction project as he delved into the everyday lives of his neighbors, befriending those he wrote about.

    “Young people everywhere were searching for happiness,” said Schmitz, reading excerpts from his story of CK—a bright young accordion player whose over-the-phone salesmanship talents (Italian accordions) allow him to realize his ‘dream’ of “running an unprofitable second floor sandwich shop, [where he can] sit in the unprofitable second floor sandwich shop, pondering the meaning of life.”

    "I wanted to show that you don't need to go very far to find amazing stories in China. All you have to do is walk and have the patience to speak to somebody,” Schmitz said.

    Schmitz trailed after the intricate lives of his new friends — going everywhere from an endless reel of pyramid scheme meetings with middle aged ‘Auntie Fu,’ to following the off-kilter life journeys of Shanghai’s hipstery wényì qīngnián, the ‘cultured youth’ working hard for the means to “watch independent films, study existentialism and visit art galleries.”

    “We're in a time — not only in this city — but in this country, that is crucial. I think it's important to understand everyday people in China and what they're going through — what change does to them and their families. I wanted to understand that, and focus on just normal people,” Schmitz said.

    Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent, based in Shanghai. Street of Eternal Happiness, is his first book. It will be released on May 17, 2016.

    The Spring 2016 Literary Reading Series is curated by Perry, Edochie and NYU Shanghai Director of External and Academic Events, Constance Bruce.
    Don't miss the next event with Yang Jian, one of China's greatest living poets, and renowned Chinese writer Wang Xiaoni.

  • US Novelists Kick off NYU Shanghai Literary Series, Draw Big Crowds

    The Literary Reading Series at NYU Shanghai, a project of the Writing Program, brings acclaimed writers from around the world to our Shanghai campus.

    The NYU Shanghai Literary Reading Series made a cracking start to its 2016 Spring schedule with events featuring two American novelists: Jess Row, author of Your Face in Mine, and acclaimed US journalist, documentarian and filmmaker Leslie Cockburn, who read from her debut foray into fiction, Baghdad Solitaire.

    Row read to a packed 15th floor lounge the evening of March 10 and Cockburn did the same on March 16, before conversing with audience members during lively Q&A discussions led by NYU Writing Program Lecturer Chidelia Edochie.

    Upcoming LRS events include Rob Schmitz’s Street of Eternal Happiness, an in-depth exploration of the lives, struggles, joys and histories of the residents living the old Shanghai street that Schmitz, a US public radio correspondent, has also called home for years (April 14), and three English-Chinese bilingual events in April and early May focusing on recent works in Chinese and English by contemporary poets, fiction writers, and translators from China, the US, and Hong Kong. (Schedule details.)

    In radically different – and inventive – ways, Row and Cockburn target crisis points and trace lines of stress and fracture that originate in the USA and run throughout the world, shaping and driving cultural, sociopolitical and economic transformations in this century of globalized crisis.

    Cockburn, a long-time international war correspondent, examines the violent heart of what she called American “empire” in war-shredded Iraq through the tale of a doctor’s desperate search for a disappeared humanitarian aid worker, while Row grapples with urgent matters of conflicted racial identity, self-alienation, and radical technological change in a work of a just-around-the-corner speculative fiction in which “racial reassignment” is on the verge of hitting the global market.

    The visiting writers also worked directly with NYU Shanghai students as part of their visits. Row led a fiction workshop open to all interested students, and Cockburn spoke with creative writing students about her life as a crisis-zone reporter and her recent turn to fiction in Writing Lecturer David Perry’s “Forms of the Personal Narrative” creative writing workshop.
    Perry founded the Literary Series at NYU Shanghai in the fall of 2015, continuing in the tradition of the 2014-15 Tea W/ords reading series.

    LRS@NYU is a project of the NYU Shanghai Writing Program.

    View the complete Spring 2016 LRS@NYU Schedule for upcoming events.

    The Spring 2016 Literary Reading Series is curated by Perry, Edochie and NYU Shanghai Director of External and Academic Events, Constance Bruce.


  • Musical Poetry

    Eight seven-stringed instruments of the zither family -- called guqin -- waited patiently on the dimly lit stage as the audience filled the auditorium to near capacity. Dr. Francesca Tarocco opened the brilliant event with an introduction of  Dai Xiaolian, a renowned guqin player and professor of Chinese music at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and her fellow performers. Before the performance got under way, Dr. Dai offered an overview of  the history of the 3,000 year old instrument.

    According to Dai, the guqin is viewed as a symbol of Chinese high culture and considered the most expressive instrument of the essence of Chinese music. It boasts a substantial repertoire rich in subtext and allusions. In particular, Dai talked about the symbolic meaning of the instrument’s form as a representation of the human figure, and explained how its tablature required special instruction.

    The audience was treated to an ensemble of pieces on the evening of February 3 from various traditions performed by a series of musicians who are committed to broadening both awareness and appreciation for the quality and musical range of their instrument. From the group ensemble of “The Prelude of Wind and Thunder,” to Dai Xiaolian’s closing solo, “The Dialogue between a Fisherman and a Woodcutter,” the musicians’ synchronized plucking and scholarly refinement rended idyllic melodies that spoke to the beauty of the natural world.

    Dai Xiaolian offered that learning to appreciate the rich, cultural intricacies of guqin music can inspire a peaceful way of life.

    View the gallery

  • Writing Voices of Catastrophe

    November 21, 2015 – Saturday, the first session of NYU Shanghai’s Literary Reading Series 2015-16 was introduced by lecturer and poet David Perry. Author and NYU Shanghai lecturer Dan Keane, followed by Timothy Tomlinson, NYU Global Liberal Studies program Master Teacher of Writing, read excerpts from their recent works.

    Keane kicked off the event with The Lazarus Correction, the first chapter of his forthcoming novel set in Bolivia. With gut-wrenching realism driving plot and his reporter protagonists, Keane’s reading left the audience hinged and hungry for more.

    Tomlinson captivated with a collection of poems from Yolanda, An Oral History In Verse, inspired by his interviews with survivors of the Yolanda typhoon that devastated the Philippines in 2013. Striking photos of the interviewees and a recurring motif: "fear of death and loss," brought the audience into each poem’s personal space and unique voice. Tomlinson worked with the vernacular of each survivor’s story, allowing versifications and rhyme schemes to sculpt a poetic appropriation.

    The readings were followed by an engaging discussion session, where both authors reflected on a common feature of their works: being a credible voice for an underprivileged layer of society.

  • Did King Arthur Exist? If So, Where?

    November 11, 2015 – The myth and the truth behind King Arthur’s legend was the topic of this week’s Master’s Tea talk, given by Elizabeth Archibald, a medieval studies scholar at Durham University. The first stories about Arthur sprung up some 1,500 years ago; and ever since, the legendary king and warrior of England has been increasingly popular not only among the British but worldwide. According to Archibald, 80 percent of the stories about Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table were written in the last two centuries. 

    To what extent are these stories fictional and how much is based on historical facts is up for debate. Over years of research, Professor Archibald has compiled a parallel historical and literary timeline of sources and events that mention King Arthur, which she shared with the audience. But while she has weighed the credibility of each piece of evidence, Archibald pointed out that to her what actually matters is the evolution of the legend, not whether King Arthur was a real figure. 

    During the lively discussion that followed Archibald presentation, one questioner asked about the absence of artifacts, such as coins, from King Arthur’s time. Also, the political motivations cast doubt on the legitimacy of a tomb found in 1189 that local monks claimed was King Arthur’s. That other countries’ historical records do not mention King Arthur was offered as another piece of evidence undermining the veracity of the myth. Archibald suggested that Arthur was most likely a warrior who lived in the Dark Ages whom people later idealized as the legendary king.

  • DV China
    From DV China to DV-Made China

    On October 13, The NYU Shanghai Art Gallery and NYU's Asian Film & Media Initiative (Tisch School of the Arts) announced their joint program Making Waves with Moving Images. The program was inaugurated with a special screening of Zheng Dasheng’s documentary DV China (2003) and panel discussion with the filmmaker himself, NYU Professors Zhang Zhen and Angela Zito. Program introduction by Qian Lin. A reception will follow the event. Qian Lin, Director, NYU Shanghai Art Gallery introduced the program and special guests, Dasheng, Zhen and Zito.