China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

(38) Literary Anthologies and Information Management in Imperial China

3/22/2018
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Roosevelt Room 5, Exhibit Level

In China, literary anthologies have long mediated between what Margaret Cohen and Franco Morretti have called the “great unread” and its “canonical fraction.” Despite this key role, however, anthologies have not received as much scholarly attention as they deserve. The most well-known have been viewed as too facile and derivative to merit serious study, and the less well-known have defied traditional methods of textual scholarship by virtue of their sheer quantity. Drawing inspiration from the field of information management, our panel conceptualizes the anthology’s function in terms of compressing, ordering, and regulating readers’ access to literary documents, and explores how this function reflected and structured new understandings of literature and literary history.
Tian’s paper traces a long-term shift in how anthologies arranged their selections, describing the breakdown of older classification systems and the new notion of “literature” that emerged. Chen’s paper dives into a mass of now forgotten ancient-style poetry anthologies produced in the late imperial period, mapping their citation practices and proposing a new method for measuring the impact of individual anthologies. Patterson and Clifford, in contrast, focus on two famous and still widely used anthologies, comparing them with their competitors and delineating the arguments implicit in their purportedly neutral mode of simplification. Our papers range across historical periods and move comfortably between multiple scales of analysis. Together, we initiate a conversation on the role of anthologies which might be productively expanded to a broader East Asian context, and which speaks to a digital turn in recent literary scholarship.

Presentations:

Timothy Clifford

Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania

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Jack Chen

University of Virginia, Virginia

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Xiaofei Tian

Harvard University, Massachusetts

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Jing Chen

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Illinois

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Gregory Patterson

University of South Carolina, South Carolina

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Timothy Clifford

Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania

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Molly Des Jardin

University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania

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