Literary Spectacle of Filial Piety

maria sibau

Time: 1:00 – 2:00pm, Oct. 17, 2014

Location: Modern Languages 201

Presenters:   Karin Myhre, Associate Professor, University of Georgia

                     Maria Sibau, Assistant Professor, Emory University

Karin Myhre

Raucous plots of northern dramas detail human trials and social foibles, often to hilarious effect. But underpinning these comedies are strong currents of Confucian morality. It is moral necessity, in particular duties of children to parents, that constrains and compels central choices of main characters in certain early dramas. This paper examines the play of filial piety in the anonymous work Orphan of Zhao and Zhu Kai’s Meng Liang Steals the Bones. In both dramas the interpretation of a parental injunction and the discovery or recovery of some element of the paternal body establish a child’s identity and elevate the family lineage.

Maria Franca Sibau

This paper examines a particular kind of filial heroism tales that rose to prominence in the late Ming and early Qing. These are narratives featuring sons who undertake a journey across myriad miles in search of a missing parent (wanli xunqin). Through an analysis of the tales of Wang Yuan and Huang Xiangjian as they were told and retold in multiple versions and genres (including biographical accounts, travel diary, vernacular stories, and plays), I will suggest how these texts can be read as attempts to cope with deep anxiety over the absence of authority figures, the dismemberment of family units, and the complex interplay between supposedly perennial moral values and rapidly transforming socio-political circumstances.