12. May 2016

The Ultimate Taste is Bland

[Translate to English:] Wir begrüßen Frau Yi Chen am Max-Planck Institut für Empirische Ästhetik. Dr. Chen hat an der Fu Dan Universität Shanghai, China promoviert so wie an der Universität von Toronto, Kanada; sie war zuletzt Dozentin an der Viktoria Universität in der Universität Toronto. Sie hat ein Forschungsstipendium für Postdoktoranden der Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung für 24 Monate verliehen bekommen.

Yi Chen: "For classical Chinese aesthetics the highest achievement of quality is to be dàn 淡 – literally: bland, denoting an utmost plain style and richest meaning, but scholars have agreed for millennia that the exact nature of this is “traceless”, even unspeakable. In my past work in philosophy and comparative literature I have characterized this as “Deceptive Simplicity” in poetics. This opens an opportunity to explore how this principle works, rather than asserting what it is.

Starting from a corpus of Chinese and German poetry, and complementing this with synthetic data, I will define features that make a text appear “simple” and juxtapose them with reader's judgments. I wish to investigate whether such judgments are stable over time and over re-encounters. My hope is that modern statistical approaches can help identify underlying mechanisms and structural elements that make a simple text linger and unfold. Developing and applying such methodology to explore the Chinese aesthetic notion of dàn through a cross-cultural and cross-language analysis provides, to my knowledge, the first systematic reference point for Chinese aesthetics. Such an embodied notion of dàn may show how phenomenological and empirical approaches can be complementary in a description of the immanent structure of poeticity."