Faculty Colloquium

Translation and Vernacularization: Notes on the Remaking of Classical Biographies into Vernacular Stories in Seventeenth-Century China” by Prof. Sibau (Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures, Emory)

Time: Nov. 30, 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Location: Modern Languages 201, 532 Kilgo Circle, Atlanta GA 30322

Free and open to the public

In many ways, the sharp dichotomization of Chinese literature into classical, or literary, and vernacular can be seen as a legacy of the May Fourth and the language reform movements in the early decades of the twentieth century. While it is fair to conceptualize the two systems as having separate histories and demarcated linguistic and ontological statuses, the complexity of the exchanges between the two has much that remains to be explored. In this paper, I examine the process of rewriting from classical to vernacular in several huaben stories from three late Ming and early Qing (seventeenth century) story collections. The stories represent a homogeneous group of narrative texts based on literary language biographies of virtuous Ming figures compiled by prominent Ming literati. This analysis aims to show the complex intermingling of linguistic registers by examining the process through which the huaben redactors reworded, expanded, or retained source materials. Particularly fascinating are the cases in which the classical text is retained verbatim or quasi verbatim, which point to the fundamentally ecumenical nature of the vernacular text on one hand, and to a strategy of connotative use of the classical for expressive purposes on the other.

About the speaker

Maria Sibau is an associate professor at Emory. She specializes in seventeenth-century Chinese literature, with a particular focus on didacticism and vernacular fiction. Her book, Reading for the Moral (Suny, 2018) is a study of the ways in which traditional moral virtues such as filial piety, loyalty, and chastity are represented in short story collections from the mid-seventeenth century. She has earned a B.A. degree in East Asian Studies from Venice University, an M.A. degree in East Asian Studies from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in traditional Chinese literature from Harvard. Her research and teaching interests include fiction and drama of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties (thirteenth to early twentieth century), women writers, and popular culture in premodern China.