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China Humanities Seminar featuring Ronald Egan – Su Shi Beyond Poetry: The Invention of a New Kind of Informal Prose
April 18 @ 5:00 pm – 6:45 pm
Speaker: Ronald Egan, Stanford University
Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037-1101) is remembered first as a poet in various forms (shi 詩, ci 詞, and fu 賦) and only then as a prose stylist. Even among his prose writings Su Shi is remembered primarily, to judge from modern selections of his works, for his output in the traditional literary prose genres (ji 記“record,” xu 序 “preface,” lun 論 “essay,” etc.). Almost completely overlooked in this hierarchy of forms is his achievement in the less prestigious prose genres, such as the informal letter (chidu 尺牘), colophon (tiba 題跋), accounts of outings (youxing 游行), and miscellaneous records (zaji 雜記). This talk looks at his writing in these forms, calling attention to its striking quantity, the porousness of genre distinctions within it, and Su’s innovative use of this writing for kinds of expression that would not go easily into poetry. Also broached is the chronology of Su’s turn to these “lesser” forms and its connection to his periods of exile.