Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang: The Epistemological Stakes of Two Realisms in New Taiwan Cinema

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Friday, November 9th, 2018

Friday, November 9, 20182:00PM - 4:00PM108N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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Global Taiwan Lecture Series



If, as Umberto Eco has argued, a work of art can be read as an “epistemological metaphor,” then the fictional world created by a film can also be read as an analogical comment on the knowability of the “real” world. This paper explores two models of cinematic realism, one totalizing and one apophatic, the former represented by Edward Yang’s Yi Yi and the latter by the films of Hou Hsiao-hsien. The former raises the ideal of cinema as a means of revealing even the hidden aspects of reality and thereby providing increased epistemological certainty. In contrast, through techniques including editing ellipses and the mobilization of off-screen space, Hou’s realism paradoxically represents a reality that defies or exceeds representation and therefore can only be represented in a negative or subtractive manner. It will further be argued that the two modes of realism reflect opposing impulses in a central dialectic of modernity.


Jason McGrath is Associate Professor in Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Minnesota, with affiliations in Moving Image Studies and Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature. His current book project is entitled Inscribing the Real: Realism and Convention in Chinese Cinema from the Silent Era to the Digital Age.


Jason McGrath
Associate Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota


Global Taiwan Studies Program

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