• Zhang Longxi

    Unexpected Affinities: Reading across Cultures (2007)
    -Tendency to view cultures in clear-cut blocks with strictly defined boundaries
      --This tendency exists in both East and West
      --Zhang gives us examples of arguments made within both cultures to prove that there is common ground between East and West
    -Differences do exist between cultures, but they exist within cultures as well
    -Conceptual and thematic similarities
      --There are some critical insights that are only available from a cross-cultural perspective of East and West studies
      --Broad vision of human creativity
    Chapter 1- The Fallacy of Cultural Incommensurability:
    -Dunsterville: “No comparison is possible between two opposites” –Cultural incommensurability
      --Zhang is trying to counteract this argument by saying that the fact that we recognize two things as opposite means that we have found some common ground through which we can understand the difference between them.
    -Incommensurability as untranslatability
    -Incommensurability in contemporary culture and politics
      --Leads to tribalism and subsequently the impossibility of thinking across cultures
    -Francois Jullien and Chen Duxiu: Greek-Chinese polarity
      --The return to self
      --Haun Saussy: Jullien’s “argument already predetermines its outcome”
    -Both East and West believe in cultural commensurability and Zhang uses this as his counterargument that there are affinities between the two cultures
    Chapter 2 – Reading Across Cultures
    -Zhang shows affinities between East and West by studying common metaphors:
      --Life as a journey
      --Life as a stay in a tavern or inn
      --Finger and the moon
    -It is this kind of cross-cultural reading that:
      --Allows us to accept literature and other types of texts in forms we previously thought unconventional/unacceptable
      --Enables us to see old/familiar literature in a new light/way
    Chapter 3 – The Ambivalence of Poison and Medicine
    -Medicine and poison: two sides of the same coin
      --Yin and Yang
    -Body politics: the relationship between the body and state in literature of East and West
    -Zhang reads this common theme, present in East and West, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
    -It is from the perspective of this cross-cultural reading that we can appreciate the theme of the reciprocity of opposites
    Chapter 4 – The Dialectic of Return and Reversal
    -Dialectic of opposites : the tendency of things moving towards a reversal that may also be a return
    -The circle as a symbol for God, truth, for spiritual understanding
      --The circle as the most natural shape entailing a setting out and then a returning to the center
    -The journey to find God/truth/self is a spiritual rather than physical one
     Fajr Fuad Abbas