Mapping the Chinese Novel

Presenter:Margaret B. Wan, Associate Professor, University of Utah
Date:Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Time:12 – 1 pm
Location:Koessler Room, Michigan League

The study of traditional Chinese literature tends to focus on a well-known canon, neglecting the vast majority of extant works. My project aims to bring back the 90% or so of Chinese novels that are understudied.   By using the MARKUS tool to mark up large numbers of digitized novel texts with place data from the Temporal Gazetteer (TGAZ), I am creating an overview of space in the traditional Chinese novel.  This research, inspired by the work of Franco Moretti, will contribute to our understanding of popular literature, history of the book, and regional culture. Genres or texts that are figuratively “off the map” or at the margins of canonical Chinese literature have much to tell us about important questions such as the system of thematic genres that constitutes the Chinese novel or the relationship between local, regional, and national in late imperial China.  Some of these works have remained largely unexplored because of the sheer volume of texts one has to master in order to understand these genres. One must read, but to understand the context, one must also count, graph and map.  Digital approaches and new digital tools promise to expand what one scholar can accomplish.

Margaret Wan is Associate Professor of Chinese literature and culture at the University of Utah. She is the author of “Green Peony” and the Rise of the Chinese Martial Arts Novel (2009), and co-editor of The Interplay of Oral and Written in Chinese Popular Literature (2010) and Yangzhou – A Place in Literature: The Local in Chinese Cultural History (2015).  Currently she is finishing a book project on drum ballads and Chinese regional culture, and piloting a new digital humanities project, “Mapping the Chinese Novel.”  Her research has been awarded fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She is the editor of CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature.