MOCATalks: The Chinese Typewriter and a Chinatown Family with R. John Williams
Where: Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre St.
212-619-4785 Price: $15, includes wine and museum general admission
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One rainy morning in 1947, Chinese-American writer Lin Yutang and his daughter arrived at the door of the Remington Typewriter Company in New York City. After being shown into a solemn, rectangular conference room where a dozen Remington executives sat at a table, Lin lifted a plastic-covered wooden box onto one end of the table, and opened it to reveal the product of over thirty years of work and over $120,000 (much of which he had borrowed): a prototype of an electric Chinese typewriter. How did this famous Chinese-American novelist and essayist come to be fascinated by the possibility of creating a Chinese typewriter? Is such a machine even realistic? Did it work? How did Lin’s typewriter affect ideas about his Chinese culture and writing? How did it affect his own writing? R. John Williams joins us to address all of these questions, and offers some thoughts on how new technologies offer to bridge cultures, as well as set up boundaries between them.
R. John Williams is Associate Professor of English and Film and Media Studies at Yale University. His work focuses on international histories of technological/media innovation and the perceived difference of racial and cultural otherness. His book, The Buddha in the Machine: Art, Technology, and The Meeting of East and West (Yale University Press, 2014), examines the role of technological discourse in representations of Asian/American aesthetics in late-nineteenth and twentieth century film and literature. It won the 2015 Harry Levin Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association. He is currently at work on a book that examines how new philosophies of time transformed East/West dialogue during the twentieth century.Buy tickets/get more info now