East Asian Cinema’s Occidental Eye: Fair Ophelia and Sweet Hamlet by Alexa Alice Joubin
Access & Features
- Open to the public
East Asian cinema has given us fresh interpretations and visually stunning renditions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Korean and Chinese Ophelias are no longer silent; they gain agency by being seen and heard through various strategies. Prince Hamlet is given Confucian virtues. This illustrated presentation explores Chinese cinematic adaptations of one of the most canonical and widely translated Western dramatic works. There has always been a perceived affinity between Ophelia and East Asian women. In May 1930, British writer Evelyn Waugh entertained the prospect of Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong playing Ophelia: "I should like to see Miss Wong playing Shakespeare. Why not a Chinese Ophelia? It seems to me that Miss Wong has exactly those attributes which one most requires of Shakespearean heroines." While East Asian Ophelias may suffer from what S. I. Hayakawa calls “the Ophelia syndrome” (inability to formulate and express one’s own thoughts), they adopt various rhetorical strategies—balancing between eloquence and silence—to let themselves be seen and heard. Chinese Ophelias seem to possess more moral agency.
Speaker's Bio: Alexa Alice Joubin is Professor of English, East Asian Languages and Literatures, Theater, and International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington D.C. where she co-founded the Digital Humanities Institute. At MIT, she is co-founder and co-director of the open access Global Shakesperes digital performance archive. (http://globalshakespeares.org). At Middlebury College, she holds the John M. Kirk, Jr. Chair in Medieval and Renaissance Literature in the Bread Loaf School of English. Her latest books include Race (in the Routledge New Critical Idiom series; co-authored with Martin Orkin); Local and Global Myths in Shakespeare Performance (co-edited); and Shakespeare and the Ethics of Appropriation (co-edited). Alexa will be a visiting professor at Yonsei University in South Korea later this year.
* This event is sponsored by AMES and the Reves Center.