Monday, June 17, 2013

Wuhan, China 2013

 I have just returned from Wuhan, China, where I was lecturing and attending a conference at the Central China Normal University.

One thing I observed right off, and much loved, was the perambulatory reading practice around the fish pond in front of the building that houses Foreign Languages.  There each morning, while older people are doing their T'ai chi ch'uan in the nearby park and parents walk their small children, university students walk around the trees reading out loud; a custom I would love to see replicated at American universities. No doubt much of this reading aloud is aimed at improving foreign language pronunciation, but I also noted that during lectures the students will often repeat something you have just said, or a phrase they see on your presentation slide, as a sort of hermeneutic device.  Seems to work -- 

My own  lectures were about African American poetry, poetics, and reception.  I'll have more to say about that and about the poetry conference over at the Jacket 2 web site in the near future.  My hosts in China were every bit as welcoming as their students were attentive.  I have seldom felt so appreciated, and the questions the students had for me were far reaching.  A few of the students are already studying in graduate programs in the United States, while others are preparing to leave for study in England. A steady theme, beginning with the first day's questions, was the influence of Chinese poetry on Modernism and the poetics that came after.  In one of my lectures I talked about Melvin B. Tolson's revisions of the poems that eventually appeared as "African China," which was as new to my Chinese friends as it is to most American poetry scholars.

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