In their own words: British Sinologists’ studies on Chinese literature, 1807–1901
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date07/07/2019
Adopting a narrow sense of “literature” as the umbrella term for poetry, drama, and fiction, this research examines the British sinologists’ studies on Chinese literature from 1807 to 1901, and addresses the specific question of how both the knowledge about, as well as the collective discourse on, Chinese poetry, drama, and fiction were gradually constructed, narrated, accumulated, and standardized in the English-speaking world in the nineteenth century. This study brings together, for the first time, a wide range of little studied sinologists’ writings on Chinese literature, including monographs, journal articles, prefaces and introductions to translations, and chapters on Chinese literature in books surveying different aspects of China. Based on extensive archival investigations, this thesis reconstructs a panoramic view of how these diverse sinological texts acted collectively to create a body of knowledge about Chinese literature. Considering sinological literary studies within the historical and literary contexts which are sketched out in Chapter 2, the remaining three chapters of this thesis examine the three narrative forms I have identified in the sinologists’ writings on Chinese literature: the expository, or, direct description and explanation of the characteristics of Chinese literature, the comparative studies between Chinese and English or European literatures, and the historical accounts of Chinese literature. With systematic discourse analysis of these writings, this research aims to unfold the vocabulary and rhetoric, the frameworks and perspectives, and the narrative strategies employed by the sinologists in the discursive formation of the knowledge about Chinese literature. I argue that such knowledge and discourse produced in the sinologists’ studies must be understood as the result of the complex dynamics among multiple literary and cultural factors including the English and Chinese literary concepts and criticism, the ambivalent cultural attitudes towards China, the implied influence of British imperial power in China, and the varied purposes and criteria of individual sinologists. A study on the nineteenth-century British sinologists’ studies on Chinese literature enables us to trace and explain the historical origins of studies on Chinese literature in the English scholarship.