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The Buddha in the MachineArt, Technology, and the Meeting of East and West$
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R. John Williams

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780300194470

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300194470.001.0001

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The Technê Whim

The Technê Whim

Lin Yutang and the Invention of the Chinese Typewriter

(p.129) 5. The Technê Whim
The Buddha in the Machine

R. John Williams

Yale University Press

This chapter argues for a reexamination of Chinese/American novelist Lin Yutang and his widely publicized efforts to invent and mass-produce an electric Chinese typewriter during the 1930s and 1940s. In terms of his status as a native interpreter of Chinese culture for Western readers, Lin's influence and authority was unmatched during the first half of the twentieth century, but his efforts to build a typewriter have gone largely unexamined. This chapter suggests that Lin's engagement with the discourse on technology (and especially his decades-long attempt to invent an electric Chinese typewriter) was central to both his literary work and its transnational circulation. Whereas some scholars have argued that Lin Yutang simply internalized the basic tenets of Euro-American Orientalism, this chapter contends that his typewriter provides evidence of an aggressive attempt to modify and subvert those discursive practices for Asia's benefit.

Keywords:   Lin Yutang, typewriter, Chinese characters, ideograph, alphabet, modernism, technology, Chinese American culture, Orientalism

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