AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 385

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Session 385: Literature of the Worlds: Trans-local Reception of the Chinese Novel in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century East Asia and Europe

Organizer: Ling Hon Lam, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Chair: Jane Parish Yang, Lawrence University, USA

Discussants: Chenxi Tang, University of California, Berkeley, USA; Ying Hu, Stanford University, USA

The panel situates itself at the nexus of the history of the book, the encounter between empires, and the emergence of world literature. It seeks to address how the local and global flow of Chinese fiction transformed representational hierarchies and textual practices in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century East Asia and Europe. In considering the East Asian and the European reception of a single Chinese novel, Haoqiu zhuan (a.k.a., The Pleasing History, or The Fortunate Union, c. late seventeenth century), which Goethe famously cited as an instance of “world literature,” the panel contributes not only toward a multipolar history of literature of the worlds, but elucidates the commonalities and differences in the mechanisms of reproduction, the strategies of interpretation and translation, and the effects on audiences between these literary circuits. Hence, the panel delineates what local and translocal factors favored certain works and readings abroad, and how competing forms of knowledge about oneself and others were generated in these processes of transmission. Sieber traces the changes in the value of the novel as a privileged source of knowledge among Chinese and European readers. Lam examines how the European obsession with the Chinese order was undercut by a Japanese reading of the novel as an exceptional case of heroism. Son explores the dissemination through the vernacular Korean language and in manuscript forms both localizing and transcending the Chinese text. Discussants Hu Ying and Chenxi Tang, specializing in East Asian politics of translation and the European construction of world literature, will bring richly comparative perspectives to the panel.

Fortunate Unions and Other Such Pleasing Histories: China, Europe, and the Authority of Fiction, 1697-1860
Patricia A. Sieber, Ohio State University, USA

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, baroque orientalism relied on the interplay between curiosity and erudition to project China through travelogues, letters, descriptions, histories, maps, and translations from the classics, but in the course of the eighteenth century, fiction assumed a central place in Europe among the textual forms believed to be capable of representing China. This paper explores the trope of “truth through fiction” in Chinese writings of the period, while also tracing the movement of the notion of “China through Chinese fiction” through a nexus of texts produced and circulated in Qing China and Europe. Particular attention is paid to the Chinese and European discourses of an authoritative “voice” in the medium of fiction. With the proliferation of pseudo-Chinese and quasi-Oriental tales throughout the eighteenth-century European Republic of Letters and with the pervasive skepticism regarding all Chinese sources due to the Rites Controversy, the Europeans involved in the translation, production, and dissemination of Chinese fiction became increasingly intent on deploying textual and pictorial strategies of authentication to differentiate genuine from mock translations. In so doing, they subsumed texts of fiction under a scholarly apparatus, thus contributing to the assimilation of the Chinese book into an emerging scholarly realm of specialized Chinese and Manchu studies. However, with the rise of other sciences and the knowledge needs of European empire in the nineteenth century, the representational validity of fiction proved to be a particular and ultimately short-lived phase of enlightenment orientalism.

A Case of the Chinese (Dis)order? The Haoqiu zhuan and the Competing Forms of Knowledge in European and Japanese Readings
Ling Hon Lam, University of California, Berkeley, USA

In the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when Percy and Goethe were reading the Haoqiu zhuan –the first Chinese novel translated into Western languages – they were obsessed with looking for “the Chinese order,” which their Chinese and Japanese counterparts would hardly recognize there. To those European readers, the novel epitomized the “whole system of manners,” where order and disorder paradoxically overlapped, showing at once the Chinese’s orderly civility and unruly excess. These notions of wholeness and reversibility of order, I will argue, constitute the “anthropological” turn of Western knowledge predicated on the finitude and perversion of humanity. Against the grain of such order-disorder totality underlying the modern human sciences and hence modern interpretations of the Haoqiu zhuan, I propose to read along with the late Edo writers Takizawa Bakin (1767-1848) and Hiromichi Hagiwara (1815-63), who focused on one particular aspect of the novel: rinkyō/renxia (knight-errantry), a term prominent in the Chinese text but missing from the Western translations. Rather than the final piece of puzzle that would render the Chinese picture complete, rinkyō/renxia here signifies an extreme case in which the norm is overexerted beyond being recognizable and identifiable with. At hand therefore is a double task to rethink local and global histories: how should we preserve the novel as an irreproducible case without generalizing it as another global token of Chineseness? More important, how should this particular knowledge of a case still be related to the “anthropological” mode of knowledge production so as to avoid reifying the East-West differences?

Domestication of Text: Translating and Transcribing the Haoqiu zhuan in Chosŏn Korea
Suyoung Son, Cornell University, USA

As one of a vast number of popular Chinese fictions that flowed into Chosŏn Korea, the Haoqiu zhuan enjoyed tremendous popularity and deeply influenced the evolution of Korean vernacular novels in the eighteenth century. Despite a general paucity of concrete records, the Haoqiu zhuan is a rare example of the unique process of reception and domestication of Chinese vernacular novels within a Korean context due to extant editions of original Chinese imprints and Korean translations. Multiple editions demonstrate that the Haoqiu zhuan transmitted was not solely appreciated by male elites. Soon it was also translated into vernacular Korean for women and less educated readers, and widely reproduced in manuscript copies for domestic spaces and commercial markets. That is, the spread of the Haoqiu zhuan in Chosŏn Korea did not involve a straightforward transmission of the Chinese text to a Korean readership, but rather a multiple process of mediation — the translation from vernacular Chinese to vernacular Korean, and the transmutation from the printed text to transcribed copies. Thus, far from being a unified and enclosed entity, the Haoqiu zhuan was constantly adapted and transformed by translations and transcriptions, in which the boundary between the original and the derivative, and between the foreign and the indigenous grew indistinguishable and insignificant. By closely examining the traces of mediations in the extant manuscripts of the Haoqiu zhuan, this paper will explore the crucial role of translation and transcription in shaping cross-cultural interactions in eighteenth-century East Asia.