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Listening to ChinaSound and the Sino-Western Encounter, 1770-1839$
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Thomas Irvine

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226667126

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226667263.001.0001

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China and the Enlightened Ear

China and the Enlightened Ear

Chapter:
(p.25) One China and the Enlightened Ear
Source:
Listening to China
Author(s):

Thomas Irvine

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226667263.003.0002

This chapter argues that the rise of Enlightenment “new anthropology,” especially the notion that senses were more culturally de­termined than universal, made continuing dialogue with China, however multidimensional, impossible. The “new anthropology,” of course, was itself the product of a similarly complex network. It emerged out of interactions between philosophers, anatomists, novelists, theologians, travel writers, nat­uralists, economists, and many professions in between. These interactions unfolded in a complex media landscape in which texts circulated through different media, languages, and channels of distribution. Later in the eigh­teenth century, distrust of the rationalist ideas of Wolff’s generation was a frequent common denominator. But some of the new anthropologists also shared with Wolff a certain faith in the universality of human senses and the possibility that humans might come together around certain ideas— such as “compassion”— regardless of their race, gender, or geographic ori­gin. Indeed, key protagonists of the “new anthropology,” such as Rousseau, imagined that history unfolded on a global stage born of shared original sentiments, if not exactly language. The language these sentiments used, more song than speech, was marked by its simple and pure sonic expres­sion.

Keywords:   Enlightenment, "new anthropology", universality of senses, circulation of texts, compassion, Wolff, Herder, Rousseau, global stage, sonic expression

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