Mark Meulenbeld, "Rethinking the Novel: Exorcism, Community, and Vernacular Narrative in Late Imperial China"


Monday, November 28, 2011, 4:00pm

Rethinking the Novel: Exorcism, Community, and Vernacular Narrative in Late Imperial China
Mark Meulenbeld,
University of Wisconsin

Professor Meulenbeld will reconsider the origins of the “novel” in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century China and situate it in a cultural sphere where exorcist ritual provided the dominant narrative models. He will explore Fengshen yanyi 封神演義 and the martial rituals that form its backbone. These same ritual methods have been widespread as strategies used to transform the unruly spirits of local communities into bona fide sacred beings who are aligned with cultural institutions that transcend any single locality or region. These ritual methods form a “liturgical structure” or a “structuring system” that accommodates the autonomous forces present in different localities.

Mark Meulenbeld teaches Chinese religion at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After earning his MA at Leiden University with a thesis on the late imperial hagiographies of Princess Miaoshan, he received his PhD from Princeton University in 2007 with a study of the thunder gods that appear ubiquitously in late-Ming literature. Aside from textual study, he has carried out over a decade of intensive fieldwork with village Daoists in Hunan and neighborhood Daoists in Taiwan. His interests include the theology of China, ritual, theatre, and literature.

Location: CGIS South, Doris and Ted Lee Gathering Room (S030), 1730 Cambridge Street, Harvard University