By: Allison Bernard (Premodern Chinese Literature)
New scholarship on medieval and early modern Chinese literature was among the exciting work showcased at EALAC’s March 10-11th international symposium, “Rethinking Authorship in East Asia and Europe.” While most symposium papers focused on Japanese literature, the event included presentations by several scholars of European literatures, as well as papers on Chinese literature by Columbia’s own Shang Wei and Princeton University’s Anna M. Shields. Professor Shields’s talk, “The Need for an Author: Creating Tang Dynasty Writers in the Five Dynasties (908-976) and Northern Song (976-1127)” examined the history of author biographies during the Tang-Song transition. Focusing on Tang poet Du Fu and Tang prose writer Han Yu, Shields argued that the revision of literati biographies from the 10th-c. Old Tang History in the 11th-c. New Tang History and in other later works strengthened connections between author and text and sought to stabilize narratives of these authors’ lives. Professor Shang’s talk, “The Story of the Stone and Issues of Authorship,” took up the complex matrix of authorial positions represented in the early chapters of The Story of the Stone. Asserting that the opening chapters manifest multiple authors and readers of the novel, Shang drew out the significance of the stone as both medium and protagonist. He also emphasized that the novel is uniquely positioned to engage issues of authorship alongside questions of media, genre, narrative, and commentary traditions of early modern China. Both papers were notable contributions to the symposium’s broader themes, which, among others, included the relationship between authorship and authority; the role of print media in making authors; and the historicity of concepts of authorship.