Published: May 12, 2014

CU Boulder’s Asian Studies Graduate Association (CUBASGA) held its annual graduate student conference on March 7th and 8th. Beginning in 1998, this conference has been organized to provide current graduate students with a forum to present original research on East Asia, particularly on topics in the humanities and social sciences. The CUBASGA organizing committee was pleased to welcome two keynote speakers to Colorado—Professor William Boltz of the University of Washington and Professor Atsuko Ueda of Princeton University. In addition, the conference featured twenty-one graduate student presentations from five different universities.

Friday’s conference focused on ancient and pre-modern Chinese studies, including presentations on ancient manuscripts, classical poetry, and reception studies. Professor William Boltz explored the generation of language at its earliest origins in his keynote: “Why no A-B-C? What ever happened to the alphabet in East Asia?” In an engaging historical survey, Professor Boltz traced the varieties of linguistic phenomenon across the world, focusing on how the Chinese language came to be expressed in ideographs. By dissecting the earliest representations of what we now recognize as Chinese characters—and setting them against modern phonological understandings of language—the keynote gave a compelling argument as to why the Chinese language never developed an independent alphabet.

Saturday’s proceedings focused on more recent topics, ranging from pre-modern Japanese poetry and drama to contemporary film and transnational representations in literature. Professor Atsuko Ueda’s keynote, “Cultural Resentment and Valorization in Postwar Japanese Literary Criticism: Nakamura Mitsuo’s ‘Spirit of Criticism,” traced Nakamura Mitsuo’s shifting cultural engagement with America from the late 1930s to the postwar occupation. Setting Nakamura’s literary criticism on modern Japanese literature against the prewar and postwar historical and political context, Professor Ueda showed how America as literary and cultural entity was conversely written out of criticism before the war and directly challenged throughout the occupation.