River, Governance and Place: Sentiment in The Travels of Lao Can

Nov 2, 2017 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Hsu Hui-Lin (Associate Professor, Department of Chinese Literature, National Taiwan University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/discussant: Karen Thornber (Professor of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University)
Co-sponsored with the Asia Center and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Sentiment has been viewed as a major force of modernization. Studies in the past decade are inclined to understand modern sentiment in early 1900s China in the context of metropolis growth. Liu E’s The Travels of Lao Can (1903-1907), due to the author’s unprecedented assertion on the power of crying and overwhelming sentiment in its preface, invites scholarly attention to the role of the novel in understanding modern sentiment in that particular period. However, set mostly in rural areas of Shandong province, the novel is found difficult to fit into the urban experience based approach. Departing from the perspective of environmental history, this talk addresses the relation between the shaping of the discourse of sentiment in The Travels of Lao Can, and the decades-long disastrous Yellow River floods since 1855, as well as the effort of river engineering where Liu E engaged himself as an active participant.