Friday, November 2, 2007


Those of you who have opened and read my CLPs (Cahill Lectures and Papers) on my website are aware that on the list that first appears when you open "The Writing of James Cahill," some entries begin with asterisks * which means that they are digitally available, and can be called up by clicking on the corresponding number in the long list that comes down at left. The ones without asterisks exist only in hard copy, and until now have been inaccessible.

Now, however, Barry Magrill has devised a way to make some of those accessible too. Their numbers have been added to the list that appears at left; when you click on one of these, the number appears at right (e.g. "CLP 6"), and when you click on that, you download a PDF which can then be opened. What you will see is a reproduction of the original typescript or printed text, often with scribbled notes by myself. The ones that have been added, or soon will be, are:

· CLP 4, "Awkwardness and Imagery in the Landscapes of Fa Jo-chen." Paper presented at 1978 symposium, never published. Attempts a reading of his paintings and their inscriptions in relation to his political and career choice to serve in the Manchu administration after the fall of Ming.
· CLP 6, "Some Chinese Bird-and-Flower Paintings in Chinese Collections." Attempt at outline style-history of b&f painting from Tang through Southern Song. Useful, since I don't know of any other such attempt.
· CLP 9. "Phases and Modes in the Transmission of Ming-Ch'ing Painting Styles to Edo-period Japan." Published in obscure symposium volume. Valuable in relation to studies of Sino-Japanese relations in art, presently a "hot" topic. Includes pictures, although they aren't very clear.
· CLP 15. "Five Notable Figures in the Early Period of Chinese Painting Studies." Info. and reminiscences on Wenley, Sirén, Sickman, Shimada and Loehr. Paper for 1991 CAA session. Appended are notes on other people and events, used when I turned this brief paper into a lecture. Useful as outline?
· CLP 26, "Foreign and Local Traditions in the Collecting of Chinese Painting." Lecture given at Univ. of Oregon symposium, Eugene, 1997? No real research, "top-of-the-head" remarks, but perhaps useful because this, too, has become a "hot" topic.
· CLP 36. "Afterword" to my published "The Case Against 'Riverbank,'" sent to Kohara and a few others after the 1999 "Authenticity" symposium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. Further thoughts, observations, and information. (On this issue, see also CLP 16, lecture on Chang Ta-ch'ien's forgeries; CLP 35, my paper as delivered at Met symposum; and CLP 53, paper written for publication in Geijutsu Shinchô, with new information.)
· CLP 65, English text for essay on 19th-20th cent. Chinese painting published (in Japanese) in Bunjinga Suihen volume titled "Go Shôseki, Sai Hakuseki" (Wu Ch'ang-shih and Ch'i Pai-shih), 1977. Quick, but maybe still useful, short account of this subject.
· CLP 82, discussant paper for symposium on "Mountains and Cultures of Landscape in China," Santa Barbara, Jan. 1993. Includes what I feel to be important observations about Northern Song landscape painting that I haven't made elsewhere.
· CLP 93, "Regionalism in Ming-Ch'ing Painting." Lecture for China House symposium "Local Colors," Dec. 1996 (held on occasion of Hongnam Kim's exhibition.)
· CLP 148. "The Life and Paintings of Tessai." 1973? written for translation into Japanese in an exhibition catalog. Includes some observations that I think important on the "northern and southern schools" issue in Nanga painting.

Other CLPs that I believe to be worth making available will be added from time to time, and announced here. Meanwhile, troubles persist: Part I of CYCTIE has been inaccessible, but will soon be restored. I think I will put it on both as a website text and as a PDF download—the latter with all the indentations etc. of my original typescript.

Comments and questions continue to come in; I welcome them, and try to answer the serious questions. I'm especially pleased by notes from undergrad students who say they find my website useful.


Up to now, my blogs have been occasioned by additions or changes to my website. Some of those are indeed underway, and will be announced soon. But today I want to write, for a change, a commentary on a large issue in our field.

In Berkeley last week I attended a book party given by Danny Goldstine, an old friend, for Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, to celebrate the publication of his new book The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, a history of 20th century music. We were all given copies of the book, and I have read the first three chapters-and, in spite of a few quibbles, like it very much. It is unabashedly narrative, and praised as that in the jacket blurbs, which see it as "cultural history the way cultural history should be written: a single strong narrative operating on many levels at once," and as a book that "reads like a sprawling, intense novel . . ." It is reportedly climbing on the non-fiction bestseller lists.

Back in 1999 I gave a lecture at Princeton in which I lamented our Chinese painting field's having abandoned the writing of chronological, developmental art history before a really good history of the early periods, especially, had been written-in my much-quoted analogy," It's as though we had abandoned the practice of architecture before we had built our city." When the lecture was published in Archives of Asian Art (LV, 2005) two younger colleagues, Jerome Silbergeld and Bob Harrist, wrote very good responses, behind both of which, however, was an unstated objection: "But we're not doing narrative art history any more-we don't recognize artistic revolutions." Betraying myself as still mired in older-generational practice, I had followed the well-established pattern of seeing certain developments in Yuan-dynasty landscape painting as constituting an artistic revolution, and had proposed a new way of thinking about it. Around the same time, at a one-day conference on "Chinese Painting Studies in Postwar America" organized by Jason Kuo at the University of Maryland on Nov. 13, 2005, Rick Vinograd presented a thoughtful and perceptive paper titled "Narrative and Meta-narrative in Chinese Painting Studies" in which he saw the narrative mode of writing as attractive but definitely outmoded. (I hope his paper will be published in a volume based on the conference that Jason is planning.)

The appearance and success of Alex Ross's book revives in me some hope: perhaps narrative art history has been written off too soon? Anyone who has lived as long as I has read and heard pronouncements that such-and-such a practice was dead, finished, and then watched the supposed deceased rise again, healthy and forward-looking. We were once told, for instance, that traditional tonic music was gone forever-from here on it was going to be atonal, twelve-tone. No question, no going back. Tell that now to John Adams.

Ross identifies the musical compositions and performances that changed the history of music, such as Richard Strauss's Salome; and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and builds his narrative around them. He is perfectly aware that they made up only a tiny fraction of the music being composed and performed at that time; he recognizes them as the historically significant works that affected how music was written afterwards. I don't remember whether he uses the word "revolution," but it doesn't matter, that's what he's writing about. And the acceptance and success of his book (he must have been told, in his early education in Berkeley, that "narrative music history is dead") gives me hope that eventually some historian of Chinese painting, perhaps at a late stage in her career, will decide to write, at last, a really good history of early landscape, or of Song painting. And for every severe theoretician who objects: But we aren't doing narrative art history any more! there will be ten readers who think: Great! Thank god that's over!

For now, an example of one of the alternatives to narrative art history can be read in Jonathan Hay's "Intervention" in the latest Art Bulletin (Sept. '07). Having failed totally to keep up with new theoretical developments in cultural studies, I found most of it unintelligible-this in spite of my general admiration for Jonathan and his writings, especially his very fine Shitao book. But among the writers of the responses that follow his piece, the three who are top-class Chinese art specialists don't seem much more able to penetrate his theoretical arguments-for the most part they write, sensibly, about matters they understand, responding to his drawing of the political and cultural context of the painting under consideration (the Kansas City "Li Cheng"), or objecting (as I would) to his too-early (late 10th century) dating of it, or to his attributing it to an artist from whom no work survives (a practice for which he could claim precedents in writings by his teacher Richard Barnhart and his teacher Wen Fong.) Jim Elkins, who does follow (and contribute to) cutting-edge art theory, is able to respond to the theoretical issues in Jonathan's paper in a properly critical way. All of which inspires a curious thought: maybe--if we think of the theoretical/methodological apparatuses in people's minds as like word-processing programs--we should, ideally, identify and choose respondents in whom are installed the same programs as underlie the writing they are responding to. An unrealizable ideal, I suppose. And, as I think more about it, wrong-headed: newer thinking in response to old, or older responding to newer, is itself enlightening, exposing gulfs between our basic assumptions besides arguing the issues.