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Zeb Raft – ‘Echoes’ in the Shishuo Xinyu: Repetition and its Significance in Early Medieval China
November 18, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Speaker: Zeb Raft, Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica
The Shishuo xinyu, the fifth-century collection of anecdotes, is full of echoes. Stories can be repeated, in somewhat different form. Individual entries may juxtapose two accounts that are different, yet similar in certain respects. Common motifs figure prominently. How should we interpret this “echo effect”? This paper identifies some of the factors involved in the formation of echoes and considers different ways of explaining the phenomenon. Approaches include the historical (seeking the source of an echo), the cultural (defining what an echo expresses), and the aesthetic (following the artful construction of an echo sequence). But there should also be ways of addressing the echo more directly, taking it not as the effect of something else but as a motive in its own right, shaping both the culture of early medieval China and our perspective on that culture.
Zeb Raft is an Assistant Research Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica. His research area is China from the Eastern Han through the Tang dynasties (i.e., roughly, the first millennium of the Common Era), with a focus on poetry and historiography in this period. His main thematic interests include communication, rhetoric, textual criticism, and translation.