Papers on Premodern Literature II

Receptions and Adaptations
Wednesday
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room C

  • Severina Balabanova, “Talent (cai) and Method (fa) in Discourses about Classical-Language Short Stories: A Research on Keywords”
  • Lingjie Ji, “‘A Handbook of Chinese Literature’: Herbert Allen Giles (1845–1935) and his Gems of Chinese Literature (1884)”
  • Ashley Liu, “From Premodern xiaoshuo to Modern Fiction: The Untangling of xiaoshuo and Fiction via Digital Research and a Critical Examination of Lu Xun’s Scholarship on Premodern Fiction in the Context of Sino-Japanese Literary Modernity”
  • Mingming Liu, “In the Mirror of the Dream: Cao Xueqin, Borges, and Chinese Avant-Garde”
  • Kar Yue Chan, “Adaptation of Cantonese Opera: From Tradition to Gendered Challenges”

Severina Balabanova, “Talent (cai) and Method (fa) in Discourses about Classical-Language Short Stories: A Research on Keywords”

Throughout Chinese literary history, scholars have defined, classified, and explained short stories in the classical language according to different criteria. From the discourse on narrative in Liu Xie’s (465–522) Wenxin diaolong, Liu Zhiji’s (661–721) Shitong, to Gu Yanwu’s (1613–1682) continuing Liu Zhiji’s analysis of writing methods in Rizhi lu, all reflect core terminology and concepts in discussing the relation between narrative and history, biography, and literature, revealing the interpretation of “narrative text” and “short story” in different epochs, thus making evident specifics in literary development.
This article focuses on the discourse of classical-language short stories from different periods as seen in the works of historians, literary scholars, and authors of literary works, prefaces, and notes to literary collections, to investigate from a historical perspective the interpretation of two key terms in Chinese literary criticism: talent (cai) and method (fa). These two concepts in literary creation formulate the criterion of talent and mastery in writing respectively and reveal the key to continuity and creativity in writing narrative texts. We can observe how the context of these discourses has influenced the interpretation of the two key concepts, thus elucidating the process in which the understanding of classical-language short stories has evolved from historical to the fictional narration. I will concentrate on related works from different periods (for example Liu Zhiji, Hong Mai, Liu Chenweng, Hu Yinglin, Pu Songling, etc.), analysing the specifics of this discourse on the narrative through keywords, and emphasising its value in the context of Chinese literary history.

Lingjie Ji, “‘A Handbook of Chinese Literature’: Herbert Allen Giles (1845–1935) and his Gems of Chinese Literature (1884)”

This paper is a historical study of a translation anthology Gems of Chinese Literature (1884) and its significance in the history of the conceptualisation of Chinese literature through English translation. Gems of Chinese Literature is a collection of the English translation of Chinese literary works by the British sinologist Herbert Allen Giles (1845–1935). Published in 1884, it contains 112 Chinese prose essays and six Chinese poems translated into English, arranged chronologically from the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 B.C.) to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). In addition to the fact that it is the first English anthology focusing on the Chinese guwen (classical prose) writings, it was designed and presented by Giles as a pioneering compendium of Chinese literature in general. By examining the choice of Chinese authors and texts included, the scope, and content of the anthology, its organisational strategies, and the literary ideas and models adopted, this paper seeks to answer what is the Chinese literature, both the idea and reality, presented with the Gems. With historical research and contextual analysis, this paper focuses on the power of anthology as a tool for constructing a view of Chinese literature and writing literary history in the larger context of the sinologists’ studies and translation of Chinese literature. Combining together translation studies, Chinese studies, and comparative literature, this paper will enhance our understanding of the history of sinological translation of Chinese literature and knowledge production of Chinese literature through translation.

Ashley Liu, “From Premodern xiaoshuo to Modern Fiction: The Untangling of xiaoshuo and Fiction via Digital Research and a Critical Examination of Lu Xun’s Scholarship on Premodern Fiction in the Context of Sino-Japanese Literary Modernity”

The first modern Chinese study of premodern Chinese fiction is Lu Xun’s A Brief History of Chinese Fiction, a work of fundamental importance in Western and Chinese academia. A major aspect of Lu’s influence on modern scholarship is confounding “fiction” with xiaoshuo 小說, a Classical Chinese term that denotes a wide variety of discourse later appropriated by Lu to translate the Western notion of fiction. I seek to clarify the historical relationship between xiaoshuo and fiction and Lu’s Social Darwinist agenda behind conflating them.
My research on Classical Chinese primary sources relies on performing keyword searches in and collocation analysis on the Chronological Database of Chinese Literature (CDCL), a digital database that contains almost 2,000 titles from the Three Kingdoms period to the Republican era sourced from my scraping of Wikisource and Paul Vierthaler’s digital Siku quanshu collection. All texts in the CDCL are categorized by the dynasty of origin, which enables diachronic computational analysis on an extraordinary scale. Through this, I expand the investigation of premodern understanding of xiaoshuo into massive uncharted territories. I argue that xiaoshuo’s denotation of “fiction” first appeared in the Tang Dynasty but was never the sole meaning before modern history. The equivalence between xiaoshuo and fiction have drawn by Lu Xun and modern scholars are based on a teleological approach characterised by the desire to bridge traditional literature with Western-inspired literary modernity, which is an intellectual legacy of the formative period of modern Sino-Japanese discourse on fiction.

Mingming Liu, “In the Mirror of the Dream: Cao Xueqin, Borges, and Chinese Avant-Garde”

The Garden of Forking Paths is a 1941 detective fiction by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. At the centre of its series of enclosed narratives is a non-unilinear novel that depicts every possible narrative sequence. The philosophical nature of a book that presents the infinite bifurcation in time excites scholars of Borges, but few have realised its connection to Dream of the Red Chamber, an 18th-century Chinese masterpiece by Cao Xueqin 曹雪芹. This paper argues that The Garden of Forking Paths, hidden underneath the façade of popular detective fiction, is actually Borges’s metaphysical interpretation of Dream of the Red Chamber.
Considering the self-acknowledged influence of Borges among Chinese avant-garde writers, this paper further argues that the influence is not one-directional, but forms a circle between the East and the West. Dream of the Red Chamber, through its abridged translations in the early 20th-century, served as a source of inspiration for Borges’s innovative use of mirrors and dreams. It returned to China after 1979 under the newly-coined name—magical realism—and inspired a new generation of writers, such as Yu Hua 余華 and Ge Fei 格非, in their adoption of metafictional techniques and circular narratives. While delineating the connections among Cao Xueqin, Borges, and Chinese avant-garde writers, this paper also attempts to distinguish what each of them has contributed to our literary imagination of realities.

Kar Yue Chan, “Adaptation of Cantonese Opera: From Tradition to Gendered Challenges”

Cantonese opera is a regional form first developed in South China and later on popularised in Hong Kong back in the 1950s to the 1980s. Cross-dressing and the practice of role impersonation has been a long-standing tradition for critical analysis. Audiences often witness cases of opera actresses disguising themselves as male roles: a kind of ‘conflict’ between the real self of an actress and her impersonated identity.
It is never easy to tell whether the operatic roles are being acted by male or female members of a troupe because specific roles could be acted by both genders. Opera-goers also experience gender displacements of such role switching in some opera contents which feature a narrated role ‘crossing over’ the male and female genders. Somehow, a high level of difficulty is encountered when one tries to embark on the trade of translating Cantonese opera scripts, as in such gendered contexts the operatic lyrics possess the follows: formats resembling classical Chinese poetry; cultural elements that subtly penetrate the lines; and the gendered aspects of the acting roles which affect the mood and tone of the scripts.
Particular gender roles are sometimes represented by implicit and explicit lyric forms. The respective translation strategies should be adjusted to a certain degree of intelligibility in order to achieve tasks of revealing the cultural concerns and the delicate differences in gendered tone representations. All of these challenging factors will be discussed in this paper, with reference to some existing translated versions of some Cantonese opera lyrics.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room C
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Receptions and Adaptations