Tchang's Secret Signature: Paranoia, Realism, and The Adventures of Tintin
This talk traces the artistic collaboration of Hergé, the Belgian comic book artist and author the Adventures of Tintin, with the prominent Chinese painter and sculptor Zhang Chongren 張充仁. Tchang (as he was known in French) is not only the central character in two of Hergé’s best loved albums, Le Lotus Bleu and Tintin au Tibet, but also the catalyst for Hergé’s own unlikely transformation from his origins as far-right Belgian Catholic royalist, colonial apologist, and crude caricaturist, to the avatar of a new realism in the realm of the comics, characterized by meticulous research, and the precise mimetic rendering of the many exotic locales in which the adventures of Tintin and his trusty terrier Milou unfold. Despite this transformation, Hergé was dogged in the postwar period by his collaboration with the Nazi occupiers during the war. Tchang, for his part, returned to China from his studies in Belgium in the 1930s, and went on to become a prominent practitioner of socialist realist art, only to be persecuted during the Cultural Revolution for his European sojourn and Catholic faith. The talk traces the dimensions of their enduring friendship and disparate historical fates through close readings of their work, arguing that ‘paranoia’ emerges as an underlying and common mode for perceiving and narrating history and the world in both Herge’s graphic art, and Tchang’s socialist realist idiom.

Andrew F. Jones teaches modern Chinese literature and media culture at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of a trio of books on modern Chinese music: Like a Knife: Ideology and Genre in Contemporary Chinese Popular Music (Cornell East Asia Series, 1992), Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age (Duke University Press, 2001), and most recently, Circuit Listening: Chinese Popular Music in the Global 1960s (University of Minnesota Press, 2020).
Date: 26 November 2020, 17:00 (Thursday, 7th week, Michaelmas 2020)
Venue: Online
Speaker: Professor Andrew F Jones (University of California, Berkeley)
Organising department: Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Organiser: Annabella Massey (University of Oxford)
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Host: Annabella Massey (University of Oxford)
Booking required?: Required
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Audience: Public
Editor: Clare Orchard