Owen & Swartz’s Ruan Ji and Xi Kang from de Gruyters

As part of the ongoing Library of Chinese Humanities series, de Gruyter has now published the complete Poetry of Ruan Ji and Xi Kang, with translations by Stephen Owen and Wendy Swartz (edited by Ding Xiang Warner and Xiaofei Tian). It is not only available for sale, it is also available for open-access free download in .pdf format.

As the promotion materials state, the present translation of Ruan Ji 阮籍 (210–263)

not only provides a facing page critical Chinese text, it addresses two problems that have been ignored or not adequately treated in earlier works. First, it traces the history of the current text … Second, [earlier] translations have been shaped by the anachronistic assumption that Ruan Ji was loyal to the declining Wei dynasty, when actual power had been taken by the S[i]ma family, who founded the Jin dynasty after Ruan Ji’s death. The introduction shows how and when that assumption took full shape five centuries after Ruan Ji lived and why it is not tenable. This leads to a different kind of translation, closer to what a contemporary reader might have understood and far less certain than referring it to some political event.

Meanwhile, Xi Kang 嵇康 (ca. 223 – ca. 262) is presented with

a complete scholarly translation of his poetic works (including “Rhapsody on the Zither”) alongside the original texts. Many of Xi Kang’s poems are difficult and most are laden with allusions and quotations, adding another level of challenge to interpretation. Basic explanatory notes are provided.

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Owen’s Complete Poetry of Du Fu

https://i2.wp.com/www.degruyter.com/doc/cover/9781501501890.jpg?resize=253%2C373The Poetry of Du Fu 杜甫, edited and translated by Stephen Owen, is now available from the Library of Chinese Humanities (a new venture started by Owen and Paul Kroll and edited by them and Sarah Allen, Christopher Nugent, Anna Shields, Xiaofei Tian, and Ding Xiang Warner). It is not only available for sale, it is also available for open-access free download in .pdf format.

This six-volume opus, totaling almost 3000 pages, is to my knowledge the first translation of the complete poetic output of any individual Chinese poet in history. The promotional materials say,

The entirety of Du Fu’s works provides a more nuanced portrait of the author than the standard selections. It gives testimony to the great rebellion of 755, but also poems on building a chicken coop and repairing bamboo plumbing. In the whole we discover how the sublime and quotidian are united in a larger vision of life.

Likewise, in his introduction, Owen writes,

If there is a justification for translating all of the poems,  it may be deepening our sense of his engagement with the mundane and  not allowing it to resolve into simply a way to talk about “big things.” It is the persistence of his vision of large significance in the everyday—sometimes ironically—that makes a whole Du Fu more satisfying than a selected Du Fu.

This is true. As is Tfrom high-minded loyalist to bereft father to woeful exile to irritable curmudgeon to sycophantic hack to meditative imagist,” which is “a welcome counterbalance to the stereotyped image of Du Fu as a great ‘Confucian’ poet, the sort of thing you find in introductory textbooks to Chinese literature, both in China and abroad.”

But I also think there is a poetic argument, not limited to the specifics of Chinese literature, for a complete Du Fu (or any poet) in English, which is the one Eliot Weinberger makes in his introduction to The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz, 1957-1987:

to study the topography of a major poet we need to see both the peaks and the valleys. One does not exist without the other; the “minor” poems not only lead to, but often illuminate, the more important work. (And, of course, what one editor or critic considers “minor” may turn out to be a revelation for another reader.)

Click the image above for more information and the full free download.

Fragmentation of Self and Discourse in the Nineteenth Century

May 7, 2015 (Thursday), 4:30-6:00 pm
CPD-2.37, Centennial Campus, HKU
English and Putonghua
Poetry as Evidence:
Fragmentation of Self and Discourse in the Nineteenth Century
有詩為證:十九世紀的角色扮演與話語的割裂
Speaker: Professor Xiaofei Tian 田曉菲 (Harvard University)
Moderator: Professor Shu-mei Shih 史書美
Late imperial Chinese culture was a theater culture, and the metaphor of theater had a large intellectual significance for social life.  This talk argues that poetry writing became part of the cultural role-playing in the nineteenth century, and that the multiplicity of roles assumed by a member of the cultural elite, roles carefully kept apart from one another, demonstrates a strange self-dismemberment and the failure of the neo-Confucian vision of a unified self. How was this fragmentation manifested, and what did it mean for our understanding of Chinese literature?
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Translation, Chineseness, & World Literature in Chinese Poetry

May 8, 2015 (Friday), 4:00-5:30 pm
Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU
Foreign Echoes & Discerning the Soil:
Translation, Chineseness, & World Literature in Chinese Poetry
Presenter: Lucas Klein; Commentator: Xiaofei Tian 田曉菲
What constitutes the relationship between world literature and Chineseness? How has translation shaped Chinese poetry, and can translation be understood as at the foundation not only of world literature, but of Chineseness, as well? This talk will begin to answer these questions by demonstrating how Chineseness as an aspect of the Chinese poetic tradition is itself a result of translation. Looking at Chinese poetry’s negotiation with concepts central to translation—nativization and foreignization, or the work’s engagement with the Chinese historical heritage or foreign literary texts and contexts, respectively—I argue not only that Chinese poetry can be understood as translation, but for an understanding of the role of such translation in the constitution of both Chineseness and world literature. After contextualizing recent debates in the field of Sinology and translation studies, I will examine the work of Bian Zhilin 卞之琳 (1910 – 2000) and his implicit vision for a world literature able to merge the Chinese literary heritage with Western influence. Since debates around world literature, especially in Chinese literary studies, focus on the modern era, however, I shift focus with a discussion of the Tang dynasty (618 – 907), when China had earlier become highly international, even cosmopolitan, in a detailed look at the history of regulated verse (lüshi 律詩), describing not only its origins in Sanskrit but how it maintained associations with Buddhism. Following this, I consider the work of Du Fu 杜甫 (712 – 770) to understand how the canonization of his work nativized regulated verse through its historiography. I conclude with a reconsideration of the ethics of world literature and translation in determining our understanding of the local.
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