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Institute for Chinese Studies Lecture: "The Pleasure Potential and its Political Dimensions"


Friday, February 07, 2020, 4:00PM - 5:30PM


The Institute for Chinese Studies presents, "The Pleasure Potential and its Political Dimensions" by Michael Nylan from the Department of History at the University of California, Berkley.

"Pleasure,” wrote Oscar Wilde, the nineteenth-century English aesthete, “is the only thing worth having a theory about.” More recently, Andre Malraux’s The Temptation of the West poses the question, “Of all his ideas, is there any one more revealing of a man’s sensibilities than his concept of pleasure?” Either formulation could be plausibly ascribed to the most important classical masters in the region we now call China, since they deemed pleasure one of the most effective rhetorical tools to motivate right action, as each defined it, as well as to discern a person’s character. Nylan's research considers the evolution of pleasure theories in early China over the course of a millennium and a half, from the fourth century BCE to the eleventh century CE. To signify acts of pleasure-seeking, pleasure-taking, and imparting pleasure, a wide range of thinkers during that time deployed the single graph, le 樂, freely borrowing from one another, sometimes to differing ends, but often with the same goal of arriving at the most versatile model of the human condition. Nylan's talk will discuss the ways in which pleasure theories in early China differed substantially from those developed in early Greece; also the vocabulary distinctions in classical Chinese that reflected the latest scientific concepts of the time. Finally, Nylan will situate thediscourse pleasure in relation both to the more negative emotions (anger, fear, and distrust among them), and the role of the emotions in the court debates on statecraft.

This event is free and open to the public.

Location : 115 Mendenhall Lab
Contact : East Asian Studies Center

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