Conference on Late Imperial Chinese Reading and Textual production

Please be informed that Penn State University will be hosting an International Symposium on “Reading, Textual Production, and Literati Culture in Late Imperial China,” May 31-June 1, 2013. The event is cosponsored by the Asian Studies Program and Confucius Institute at Penn State University, and the Department of Chinese Culture at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. It is open to the public and anyone interested is welcome to attend.  For information, please contact On-cho Ng <>.

Themes of the Symposium:

To the extent that history investigates the conjunction and relation of personage, action, event and context in particular places and times, our Symposium, by exploring the nature and act of reading in Late Imperial China, pays attention to the cultural, social, political, material and economic conditions and structures in which texts were appropriated, interrogated, understood, mediated, manipulated, and consequently, produced and re-produced, by the literati.  Why, what, and how did the literati read? Who were the literati who read, and what were the interpretive communities and lineages in which they were situated? What made their acts of reading necessary, possible and meaningful? What were the authorial intents, and the corresponding responses and receptions? What were the texts that were produced and re-produced, and how so?

We hope to assemble a host of papers that cut across disciplinary lines and embrace a multiplicity of interpretative stances. While we welcome close readings and analyses of texts, we are concerned with the varied contexts in which they were read, analyzed and valorized. At the same time that we value thick hermeneutic descriptions and elucidations of the inner linguistic and narrative meanings of texts, we intend to shed light on the outer sociology and politics that enabled and engendered such textual lucubration and knowledge.

Last, via the issue of reading the classics, we submit the epochal concept/label of “Late Imperial China” to a critical examination by showing the richly variegated complexities of the study of the classical texts and their commentaries in the said “period.” Does the periodizing term of “Late Imperial China” take on specific meanings, given our theme of inquiry? Does the periodization of this temporal span from roughly the sixteenth century through the early nineteenth century serve merely as a chronological register, or does it function as an epochal register, promising qualitative differences? In short, what was historically significant and substantively different about reading the classics in the Ming-Qing period?

The symposium will feature presentations by:

On-cho Ng, Penn State University; Hung Lam Chu, Hong Kong Polytechnic University; Tzi-ki Hon, SUNY-Geneseo;  Dennis Kat Hung Cheng, Hong Kong Institute of Higher Education; Kai-wing Chow, University of Illinois; John Henderson, Louisiana State University; Guoxiang Peng, Peking University; Rivi Handler-Spitz, Middlebury College; Kathryn Lowry, Hong Kong Polytechnic University; Q. Edward Wang, Rowan University;  Ori Sela, Tel Aviv University;  Jennifer Eichman, Cornell College; Minghui Hu, University of California-Santa Cruz; Lianbin Dai, University of British Columbia; Deborah Sommer, Gettysburg College.

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