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Chengzhou He

Chengzhou He

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2012/13, 2017/18

HE Chengzhou holds a PhD from Oslo University and is Yangtze River Chair Professor of English and Drama and Dean of the School of Arts, Nanjing University, and Foreign Member of the Academia Europaea(the Academy of Europe). He teaches several courses at Nanjing University School of Foreign Studies, such as “Drama/Theatre Studies,” “Literature and Performativity” and “From Literature to Film.” His research areas include modern drama, comparative literature and cross-cultural studies. He has published more than 10 books in Chinese and English, such as Henrik Ibsen and Modern Chinese Drama(Oslo, 2004), The Scandinavian Canonical Authors—Ibsen, Strindberg and Hamsun(Peking UP, 2009), Globalization and Intercultural Theatre(Nanjing UP, 2012). His academic titles include: former President of the International Ibsen Committee and Chairman of the Jiangsu Comparative Literature Association. From 2013 to 2017, he was the Chinese Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies. He won the Ibsen Prize in 2002.

Research Project

The Adaptation and Staging of Western Plays in Contemporary China

Since the early 1980s, a number of major Western playwrights, such as Shakespeare, Ibsen, O’Neill and Brecht, have been frequently adapted and staged in China, leaving a significant impact on Chinese theatre and culture at large. These adaptations have been marked by tensions between different performance cultures in terms of their aesthetics, politics and ideology. Over the decades, the Chinese performances of Western plays have undergone major paradigm shifts. My research project will investigate this phenomenon mainly from the following three perspectives: Firstly, against the backdrop of Marvin Carlson’s discussion of ‘macaronic theatre,’ the plurality of culture and the symbolic use of language(s) will be analyzed based on a detailed account of international casting, bilingual or multilingual performances and cross-cultural collaborations. Secondly, given the fact that more and more Western plays have been adapted for traditional Chinese theatrical forms, such as jingju, kunju, yueju, chuanju, qujuand so on, the narrative of rewriting, semiotic re-embodiment and poetic displacement will be addressed in addition to the sinofication of stories. Thirdly, some Western plays have been frequently adapted and staged in different locations during more or less the same period. The performance history of a few selected Western plays in contemporary China will be explored in depth both from sociohistorical perspectives and through the lens of locality.

Selected Publications

  • Chengzhou He, “An East Asian Paradigm of Interculturalism,” European Review, Vol. 24, No. 2 (2016), pp. 210-220.  
  • Chengzhou He, “Performance and the politics of gender: transgender performance in contemporary Chinese films,” Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, Vol. 21, No. 5 (2014), pp. 622-636.  
  • Chengzhou He, “Trespassing, Crisis and Renewal: Li Yugang and Cross-dressing Performance”, Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Vol. 24, No. 2 (2013), pp. 150-171.  
  • Eva Haettner Aurelius, He Chengzhou and Jon Helgason (eds.). Performativity in Literature, Stockholm: the Swedish Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, 2016.  
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung