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China Humanities Seminar featuring Xiaoqiao Ling – Rethinking Early Huaben Stories: Miscellanies and Literary Ecologies

December 4, 2023 @ 4:00 pm 5:30 pm

Speaker: Xiaoqiao Ling, Associate Professor of Chinese, Arizona State University

This paper investigates ways in which the proximity of texts in literary environments complicate our understanding of invention and creation in the late Ming narrative tradition. Early vernacular short stories (huaben) are typically dismissed as haphazard patchworks of disparate textual segments. Pioneering scholars such as Patrick Hanan have mostly used these stories for dating purposes and for tracking textual pedigrees and influences. Feng Menglong (1574–1646), in his 1620 compilation of Stories Old and New (the first of the Sanyan collections), dismissed two of such stories as “coarse and frivolous,” failing to meet literati sensibilities. Yet these stories certainly had broad commercial appeals at the time. Anthologized repeatedly in late sixteenth-century miscellanies that fitted texts of different literary forms in upper and lower panels on a leaf, these stories facilitated serendipitous connections in readers’ minds given the proximity of texts that packaged familiar tropes in novel permutations. Using ecology as a metaphor to examine literature’s engagement with its environments, this research proposes to rethink these stories in terms of how they were experienced in their immediate textual environments housed by sixteenth-century miscellanies. Such a perspective also allows for new ways of contextualizing the huaben tradition in a distinctive regional community that embraced literary sightseeing as a predominant mode of reading.

Xiaoqiao Ling is Associate Professor of Chinese at Arizona State University. Her main field of interest is late imperial Chinese literature with a focus on performance texts, vernacular fiction, and print culture. She has published in both Chinese and English on fiction and drama commentary, legal imagination in literature, memory and trauma, and Sino-Korean reading practices. She is the author of Feeling the Past in Seventeenth-Century China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2019) and editor of Minor Discourses: Aesthetics of the Everyday (National Taiwan University Press, forthcoming).

Also via Zoom. Register: https://harvard.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEqce2hrzsoHdaOgEkIVGI4yJGHKkwYCnzF


December 4, 2023
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies


Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave.

2 Divinity Ave.
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 United States

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