China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Touch, as the most private and fleeting of senses, plays a key role in bodily experiences of love and sexuality. Intimate touch assumed a new significance and intensity in modern China, under the substantial influence of western Romanticism, Japanese literature, and Hollywood films. Through the selected examples of the translation of romantic/sexual scenes and the experience of viewing screen kisses in the early Republican era, the paper explores intimacy as a tactile experience and sensation as well as a linguistically and culturally constructed idea, evoked through narrativity and visuality. Critical issues include: how the immediate, fleeting interaction and electrifying sensations are dealt with in occasions of translation and representation within different genres; how bodily self-awareness and sensation, such as touching hands and lips, break away from Confucian decorum and contribute to the formation of the modern concept of romantic love and the self’s relationship with the other through intercorporeal compresence; how the notion of intimacy as a private, personal relationship intervenes in the mapping of public and gendered spaces, subsequently reconfiguring the traditional way of life. I argue that not only Chinse emotional life encountered a paradigmatic shift, but the conceptualization and practice of romantic intimacy (in physical, psychological and emotive terms) have been significantly reconfigured as the corporeal foundation of language and modern subjectivity. Exploring the previously unexamined sensuous world and embodied experience of Chinese modernity, this paper endeavors to illuminate the intertwined relationship between sensuous experience, emotion and representation in a period of pivotal cultural transformations.