A talk by Robert Hegel (Washington University)
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The Chinese novel was born and went through a stage of intense development during the sixteenth century. In addition to the historical romances that dominated the form, there was also a fashion for novels on religious themes and figures that lasted from around 1680 to 1620 or so. The best-known text in this group is Xiyou ji (Journey to the West), and its artistic and religious complexity has been widely recognized. My concern will be the literary context in which that novel appeared--and the later developments it spawned, with the now largely unread novels that were once so popular, the shenmo xiaoshuo, or "novels of spirits and monsters."
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Robert E. Hegel has taught Chinese literature and culture at Washington University in St. Louis since 1975. His research interests center on Ming and Qing period fiction, including the contexts in which texts appeared. His monograph Reading Illustrated Fiction in Late Imperial China (Stanford University Press, 1998) explored print culture and the book trade as a means to understand reading practices for vernacular fiction. More recently he has compared fictional narratives with those in crime reports from the Qing imperial archives to assess broad cultural assumptions about the construction of stories; he contributed the introduction and an essay in the collection Writing and Law in Late Imperial China (co-edited with Katherine Carlitz, University of Washington Press, 2007). He also has a collection of translated case records under consideration for publication at University of Washington Press. Hegel's current research explores standards for behavior as expressed in fiction on religious and legal subjects of the late Ming period.
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Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies
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