Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pleasure Reading: The Manuscript Found at Saragossa

This map of Spain shows the mountain ranges off, making it convenient as I read this amazing book

My notes on the book so far.


Intimate Publics: Reading 2

Lauren Berlant coming into focus

Burgett, Bruce. "The Public Sphere. Present Tense" (Review of The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship by Lauren Berlant and Uncivil Rites: American Fiction, Religion, and the Public Sphere by Robert Detweiler). Contemporary Literature, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 136-143 Burgett clarifies what is going on with "intimate publics" a very little bit in this article. I now know that "intimate public" is a transformation of the term "public sphere" that is only imperfectly theorized by Berlant (and much less perfectly by Detweiler). I know that the main value here is perhaps the attention to a wide variety of popular texts. Strangely, though, Burgett does not point to Berlant's "constantly expanding negative terrain" that offers so much power to bourgeois feminists like Irma Bombeck. For me, that seemed the whole point of the 1988 essay.

Clearly, for more information I will need to read Berlant's new book, The Female Complaint: On the Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2008, Duke)


Monday, December 28, 2009

Intimate Publics: Reading 1

"Roxanne" spurs "Roxanne's Revenge" which spurs a diss on that and so on and so on. So, art?

Thinking about the IABA's next conference:

Late modernity has spot-lit intimate relations. Families, feelings and love lives have been opened to public politics...This conference begins from Lauren Berlant's term 'intimate public' to explore these new constituencies in relation to life writing and life storying across media, discipline and profession.

Apparently Berlant first unveiled her concept here:

Berlant, Lauren. "The Female Complaint." Social Text, No. 19/20 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 237-259. [JSTOR Stable URL] What I like immediately here is that it reads for "bourgeois" history, in this case of the female subject. We examine the values of Irma Bombeck, of Harriet Beecher Stowe, both of whom in their own way use the "complaint" form to great effect, which is a subject-positioning that the more monolithizing French feminism does not predict. There are several ways this can apply to a Yang Jiang reading, which I must annotate along with my reading of Litzinger from yesterday. Alas, that may have to wait yet another day.

"Complaining" here emerges as both an issue and something like a genre -- one that curiously includes both "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Roxanne's Revenge." The "complaint" always stops short of something -- the speaking subject is not truly radical, I suppose we could say. However, the "sites of resistance" incorporated in complaint and other "genres of self-containment" are able to actually expand women's rights even more powerfully than seemingly radical theories. Irma Bombeck beats lesbian separatists. Yang Jiang beats Madame Mao?

Bourgeois women deply "sentimentality, melodrama, and domestic irony" strategically. The "intimate public" as I seem to understand it, describes the relationship between the bourgeois feminine voice and her readers: it has the authority of the mother, and hence an "intimate" relationship to the reading public. Harriet Beecher Stowe created a situation in which readers understood slavery to be wrong because it horrible to the good mothers and wives of good houses. This strategy can get a lot done, as I plan to show in the last chapter of my dissertation.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Translation note

A diagram showing the function of "general demeanor" 精神气质 in 'urban travel,' from a dictionary on the CNKI website. The original source of the diagram is cited here.

A stop in Northeast Harbor, Maine. I won't have any time to be productive for the rest of this day or possibly the next, but I did finally type up the outline of my next translation gig in the morning. A few other notes from the first pages of my manuscript:

The continuing dilemma of syntax

Syntax simply must change when one is translating from one language to another. My previous efforts to preserve syntax as much as possible were well-intended, but not as realistic as my thoughts on the subject are now. I think it's not that I should attempt to preserve syntax so much as be aware of syntax. Sometimes terms must be presented in the original order, which will require a jiggering of the auxiliary words. Other times key terms and auxiliaries, as well as the relationships between them, can be preserved by changing the order.

Example (though I will not exposit on it in detail here):

Although Zhang Jinglu was not the most direct agent in the employer-employee relationship between the Contemporary Book Company and Shi Zhecun, still, the idea to create Les Contemporains and the motion to hire Shi on as chief editor were originally Zhang's. Further, during both the planning and the actual practice of having Shi Zhecun as editor, Zhang gave enthusiastic guidance and support.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Post-Christmas Reading

Yang Jiang with a statue of Don Quixote, along with Mayor of Madrid Juan Barranco

Nothing learned on Christmas, except that not all of A's relatives get along so well (ta-tum!).

The day after, we ride with Dave and Felicia to Northeast Harbor. I manage to do a little reading during the drive:

De Almeida, M. W. Barbosa. "On Turner on Levi-Strauss" Current Anthropology, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 60-63. A strange place to begin Levi-Strauss, perhaps, but actually this spirited defense of Levi-Strauss' logical consistency certainly intrigues with its conjecture that Levi-Strauss predicts the "entropy" of culture. "The use of entropy arguments can be seen as a reaction to the historical optimism based on a deterministic or evolutionist view of history." In other words, Levi-Strauss was a pessimist who could prove his case. Or at least thought he could.

Sanders, Valerie. "Teaching & Learning Guide for: Victorian Life Writing." Literature Compass 1/1 (2003–4), 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2004.00113.x (weird, huh? Damned if I know what last code means) I dug up this overview for having one example of a syllabus of how to teach life writing. It attempts to be helpful by calling on us to "examine the way in which Victorian life-writers handle the interplay of narrative, memory, and time" but does not quite seem to get to those terms anywher in its hypothetical (and insipid) syllabus. Nevertheless, there were a few titles that looked good, such as E. F. Benson’s Our Family Affairs 1867–1896 (London: Cassell, 1920), which are said to "reveal the domestic unhappiness of the family of Gladstone’s Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, whose children and wife were all to some extent homosexual or lesbian." You know I just have to have a look to find out how anyone can be homosexual "to some extent." Note to self: just sit down and read James Olney already, dammit.

Litzinger, Ralph A. "Memory Work: Reconstituting the Ethnic in Post-Mao China Ralph A. Litzinger." Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 13, No. 2. (May, 1998), pp. 224-255.
[Stable URL] This was a meaty article; I'll need to review my notes carefully in the next 24 hours (ahem!) and embed into my dissertation the four points at which Litzinger's readings inform what I want to say about Yang Jiang's life and work. One of these is path by which I will return to speak on the statue of Don Quixote on the campus of Qinghua University. Litzinger gives me the inspiration to write read the statue as a place that illustrates "memory work." (see illustration)


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thursday, Christmas Eve


Lost an entire day yesterday to sleeping late and family schtuff. 'Tis the season.

Christmas Eve. I started working on a new translation for Nobo, but rather than work on that this afternoon first I decided to render the Lady Gaga song "Bad Romance" into Chinese. Following A's advice, I tried to write Chinese that scanned along with the melody of the song. For the basic format of the translation and all the onomatopoetic sounds, I used a translation by leoharlem728 on a Taiwanese music site.

A trashy novel I stole from

Caught in a bad romance

Want your bad romance

I want your ugly
I want your disease
I want your everything
As long as it’s free I want your love
Love-love-love I want your love

I want your drama
The touch of your hand
I want your leather-studded
Kiss in the sand
I want your love love-love-love
I want your love
(需要你淚雨 、
需要你愛 愛愛愛

You know that I want you
And you know that I need you
I want it bad
Bad romance

I want your loving
And I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance
I want your loving
All your love is revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

I want your horror
I want your design
‘Cause you’re a criminal
As long as your mine
I want your love
Love-love-love I want your love
愛愛愛 需要你愛)

I want your psycho
Your vertigo stick
Want you in my rear window baby you're sick
I want your love Love-love-love
I want your love
你把我《後窗》插進 變態寶貝
需要你愛 愛愛愛

You know that I want you
And you know that I need you
I want it bad
Bad romance
你也知道我需要 (我是變狗寶貝)


Walk-walk fashion baby
Work it move that bitch curazy
walk-walk fashion baby
Work it move that bitch crazy
walk-walk fashion baby
Work it I'm a freak bitch baby

I want your love
And I want your revenge
I want your love
I don’t wanna be friends

J'veux ton amour et j'veux ton revenge
J'veux ton amour I don’t wanna be friends
watashi wa anata no ai wo shi tai

watashi wa fukushū shi tai

Adapted from

(original translation by leoharlem728; thanks and apologies for the changes)


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas: Thinking of the Future

Idols of Amlash: Video game gristle?

Late-afternoon ideas for making fame and fortune with the humanities:

1. Newer versions of the game Civilization should link up with books like Splendors of Ancient Persia using 3D scans of all these materials. They should be real documents of ancient civilizations, with real time scales. Game play will probably have to change significantly from Civ as it stands, but I really can't say for certain yet because I haven never played the game.

2. Why can't graduate students in literature support themselves by writing literature? We should really be crowd-sourced to either come up with good stories, or else find and translate stories by hot new Chinese writers. Since I had this idea earlier today, I feel like I should really start my own literary journal. Or other business that allows for consumption of literature.

I finished my grading today, though I haven't yet quite turned in the last few grades of people who didn't turn in all their work yet. After, I mainly caught up on internet reading, this time with perfect non-guilt that I was procrastinating anything. One issue likely to occupy my attention in the future: population growth. Should we worry about population growth, or worry more about population growth policies? As with so many important issues, China is a complex and intimidating factor to consider.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Posthumanism note

Time's "person of the year" in 1982 was a computer. (But note that a person is still required to gawk at it)

Christmas, travel, yadda yadda. But I'm back online now, at least with a small note about a sidecar of theory: posthumanism.

Neil Badmington. "Theorizing Posthumanism." Cultural Critique, No. 53, Posthumanism (Winter, 2003), pp. 10-27

Neil Badmington, an advocate for "posthumanism," tells us to slow down and be "patient" in the project of posthumanism. As far as I can tell, the central issue here is that the fundamental dualism between the human and the non-human, long grounded in the mind, the reasoning center, breaks down as we begin to imagine machines that can imitate the human mind. Badmington would enjoy a complete collapse of humanist thought in the wake of this discovery, but cautions that the idea that the mind is distinct from the body will not easily die, and must be removed in careful steps via indirect strategies as we re-read old humanist texts -- Badmington demonstrates this with a passage on robots from Descartes' Confessions:
...we can certainly conceive of a machine so constructed that it utters words, and even utters some regarding the bodily actions that cause certain changes in its organs, for instance if you touch it in one spot it asks what you want to say to it; if in another, it cries out that you are hurting it, and so on; but not that it arranges them [the words] diversely to respond to the meaning of everything said in its presence, as even the most stupid [hebetes] of men are capable of doing. Secondly, even though they might do some things as well as or even better than we do them, they would inevitably fail in others, through which we would discover that they were acting not through understanding [connaissance] but only from the disposition of their organs. For whereas reason is a universal instrument which can be of use in all kinds of situations, these organs need some particular disposition for each particular action; hence it is impossible to conceive that there would be enough of them in a machine to make it act in all the occurrences of life in the way in which our reason makes us act.

Surely Descartes was a bit anxious when he wrote, "it is impossible to conceive that there would be enough of them in a machine to make it act in all the occurrences of life in the way in which our reason makes us act;" now, we are even more anxious.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Apricots and Almonds

Not quite what my canister looks like, but close.

The same day I purchased a box of Green Max almond powder and downed two cups of hot almond tea, not an hour passed but I sat down to read Lao She's memoir and came across Beijingers selling and drinking the same drink ca. 1898 in the city.

Our American and European almonds are, I suppose, a related species, Prunus dulcis. The Chinese xingren is actually Prunus armeniaca, aka the apricot. So it's the pit of the apricot. Apparently Italian amaretto is actually made from the same substance.

One more note, I'll try to translate from Li Shizhen's "Compendium of Materia Medica," section one on fruits, on the apricot xing 杏. He says,
The pit of the apricot can loosen 散 and lessen 降, and so has the following healing and medicinal properties: the separation of flesh, the scattering of wind, the lessening of qi, the moisturizing of the throat (?) and alleviation of accumulated (accumulated what? another medical expression I don't understand). 杏仁能散能降,故解肌、散风、降气、润燥、消积,治伤损药中用之。



Dayton's Department Store in the 1970s, Carol and other men back then could go here "dressed." Thanks to Livemall

Once again, the meager fruits of a weekend: a little reading, a little writing.

I got through chapter 3 of Lao She's "Under the Red Banner" 正红旗之下. My notes, which I try my best to type soon after I read, are a valuable way to brainstorm and to increase Chinese vocabulary at the same time. This is really a great book, and perhaps the first not by Yang Jiang that I will read cover-to-cover in Chinese.

Responding to my reading of Literary Theory: A Brief Insight, I drafted a new overall outline of my PhD dissertation. It's organized as a series of readings that are calculated to move from poetics to hermeneutics, from literary criticism to cultural studies, and as a kind of tour, or game play, through the various types of critical approaches. I plan to write something mimicking Culler on the need to examine texts from different angles.

On Sunday, while A. was at an interview I read some excerpts from oral histories of GLBT people in the Twin Cities. These were three:

1. Carol, a trans woman who describes "dressing" and discovering others like herself in her childhood and adulthood in Minnesota and Wisconsin. This was such a great narrative, it easily convinces us of the unique resonance that trans people have with the queerest and most old-fashioned parts of town.

2. Robert, a gay man who lived with several guys during the 1960s before briefly considering suicide, and then deciding to come out to his family. This was a touching success story.

3. Judy, a lesbian who came out in Minneapolis only after marriage and a child. She was early to realize that lesbians needed to make more room for men and children, but they couldn't because of a certain rigidity in their culture.
This was my first reading in oral history, and I really don't know what I might do about it yet. But for one thing, I am more motivated now to go on with the Tretter "Framing GLBT Lives."


Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10

Tang Yin -- portrait of a lady

Again, I fail at productivity

Thursday was just a terrible blot, because I was tired and cranky and lazy all morning, and never really approached work seriously. I went out to do an errand for S, scanning this work, and I thought about the nature of debate in the case of climate change, which is a hot topic right now.

When I came home, I was forced to begin cooking to prepare for a dinner party later in the evening. That was a nice time, with good conversation, and far too much drinking. Advice for dinner-party days: do your best, your very best, to get something done in the morning, because nothing focused will happen once you begin the cooking.

One accomplishment of note: I got completely caught up on all my grading of students' response papers. Some included very nice comments, and I thought to paste a few of the better examples into my reading notes so that I can remember next time I teach the material what sort of response I might expect. This is actually a nice demonstration of the power of Google docs for taking and organizing notes: all we need do is paste from the Moodle response into the Google doc. No other apps needed, all work done in a web browser, with a laptop sitting on the radiator in the kitchen, at what I sincerely hope is a safe distance from boiling beans and a searing chicken. My notes on The Red Brush are a great example -- it's basically like having a note card to go with the book that is infinitely large, so I can continue putting all my thoughts I ever have on the book in there. Here's a snippet:

Lady Jin: Braver than her husband. eww, gory. A poem, as well. their heroic spirits. graphic imagery: battlefield. Pverty sucks, and so does Han Yu. Leisure, trip, feelings. Preface to Xuan Huazi's colleciton. talent. Shijing: women authors. many genres. palindromes. quatrans. Concubine Ban.

Studied in class, Fall 2009. One student writes,

Of all the responses to the invading Qing armies Lady Jin's remains the most compelling. In her portrait of Lady Jin and her husband Qinchen, Wang Duanshu writes:

"In the end, Qinchen was condemned to death by slicing, and his wife was to be handed over to the troops as a reward. At this, Lady Jin gave out a scream and said, 'If my husband dies, then how could I even think of remaining alive? I also want to die right away.' The commander said: 'Since you want to die, I will order you to be cut in half at the waist.' But Lady Jin [protested] saying: 'Since my husband had been condemned to slicing, why should I be simply cut in half? I should also be condemned to death by slicing.' So the commander agreed to her request."

Lady Jin's story, in all likelihood, is largely a product of either Wang Duanshu's imagination or folkloric legend. That's not to say she didn't exist or wasn't executed by Qing troops, but the details that make the above passage so compelling were most likely not recorded as they occurred. In addition, it should be remembered that at the end of this portrait Lady Jin returns as a ghost to haunt her executioner.

However, I selected Lady Jin mainly because her persona is so stout and dominant, especially, at least in this prose piece, in contrast to her husband who comes across as weak and submissive. Her tongue-lashings of her husband that occur earlier are even more acerbic than the rebukes aimed at her Qing foes above. This intrepid spirit, in the passage above, transcends into something bordering on masochism. The fantastic aspects of Lady Jin's resistance may not render it more useful or exemplary than other martyrs' methods, but it certainly is more interesting to read about than someone drowning themselves in a river or starving in a Buddhist temple.


Wednesday, December 9

Women in Cangue 枷, 1880 albumen print. Legal history involves telling stories about punishment, and yet, it can be amazingly dull to read. Thanks to Theonlinephotgrapher

Notes on a very unproductive day

Other than delivery of a decent lecture, there was little progress on the things that needed progress (dissertation, Framing Lives project, syllabus for next term). It's not that I'm low in energy, but more that I cannot focus it. I feel myself constantly fighting against distraction -- it actually happened just after I finished writing this sentence! I think I need a vacation. I'm also ready for the year to change.

One thing I got done was a revision of a paper by my classmate HXY. I'm sort of curious about whether this paper can get published, and what readers like Philip C. C. Huang and Mathew Sommer will think of it. What HXY demonstrates is a kind of work that is like a really slow bulldozer. He translates, makes brief analyses, and repeats to build a logical structure that updates and resolves the work of previous scholars. I admire the pure, positive accomplishment that his work represents, but at the same time I can't help but feel that it is dull, inelegant.

Of course the English style takes a double-punch from the jargon of Qing legal history and the fact that H is a native speaker of Chinese, but that's not really what concerns me. Beneath the style there is an affront to my own sensibility that a published paper should have more, should work to create. I think it's time I really questioned this sensibility, or rather assumptions. I need to read more of these papers, in a wide variety of settings. I suspect that H knows what he is doing better than I do, and his quick progress to engage with the top thinkers in his field shows an ambition worth emulating.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tuesday, December 8

Brainstorm, December 8

Notes on the day

After a nice breakfast with the "Pride at Work" group, which included a good conversation about how GLBT Programs Office director Anne Phibbs managed to get her own dissertation in philosophy completed, I went to my office and read more from Fairbank's China: A New History (view my typed notes).

I studied this book at Harvard, of course, but there is a big difference between reading a textbook for a class and reading a textbook for inspiration. I see much more now the elegance of the piece, and the power of that elegance. In class today, I'll read from parts of chapter 20, "The Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976" to fill in the context of our last week of class, on Yang Jiang's Lost in the Crowd.

I worked out in the 1pm hour, a good time to find the gym relatively uncrowded, during which time I listened to lecture 18 of "The World of Language," in which McWhorter reflects on the connection between spoken language and writing. For my own theoretical purposes, these are extremely important lectures. More on that soon.

Later in the day, as I rode the bus around town doing errands and then in the evening, I finished the book. Literary Theory: A Brief Insight (aka Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, the newer edition is part of a series I should check out a bit more) by Jonathan Culler. This was so inspiring! Culler's sense of elegance is unequaled: "Meaning depends on context, but context is boundless." As I finished this book, I set up a new "game board" for my entire dissertation, which I had already been imagining to move from literary criticism to cultural studies in a chapter-by-chapter tour. The goal is actually to learn a lot about Chinese literature and the theoretical methods for approaching it, in exercise form, at the same time. I drew a diagram on my white board to illustrate this -- to be attached here.

Anne said that a major discovery for her was that a dissertation is "a very bad book." The significance here being that it is a book-length undertaking, but need not be a good one. When she said that I thought to myself very reflexively, "Well, mine is going to be good." But now I wish to modify that by saying the my dissertation will be, if not good, then elegant. Elegance means that a lot happens "under the hood." It means theory, translation work, and exposition have to be seamless. It means I see the entire work as a performance art, something in between theater and a novel for the academically-minded. I realize that is probably too ambitious still, but that's the model I'm working with.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Weekend + 1

A student's father suggests that these children symbolize 福,禄,寿

Report on three days of activity.

Over the weekend I worked too little, as I might have predicted. I did, however, get my final exam and final weekly assignment written for "Writing Lives in China." I noted that sitting at the computer on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon is not so good -- it makes me feel like I can spend some time working and some time surfing the web, which is the classical problem of divided attention.

I also finished Girl Rebel: The Autobiography of Hsieh Ping-ying (1940). That took longer than it should have, but I have a feeling that few readers get to the end of the volume. In my lecture on Monday, I began fleshing out a contrast between on the one hand Xie Bingying's non-ironic, earnest call for revolution and a new society and on the other hand Yang Jiang's ironic questioning of that new society once it had been put in place. More to come out of this -- I think I'm closer than ever to a discussion of Six Chapters that highlights its true literary and historical significance.

Also began reading Culler's Literary Theory: A Brief Insight (aka Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction) which is excellent preparation for teaching theory to my future ALL 4900W students. The syllabus for that course is really taking shape now.

More grading to do, but I feel more like reading.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Signs of intellectual change

(This is a random aside: perhaps these can spur me to critical thinking in my field as well as outside of it)

Well, maybe not actual signs, but there is a growing momentum to the criticism of conservatism; Joe Biden stated definitively that there no more moderates in the Republican party on The Daily Show, and even if this is an exaggeration it tallies nicely with yesterday's news that Andrew Sullivan is leaving the "movement." I'm skeptical that Sullivan was as genuine a conservative he needs to claim to disavow it properly (Po-mo feelings: what do "conservative," "disavowing" conservatism," and doing so "properly" even mean, anyway?), but I do feel overall that these are hopeful signs. As I was telling A. yesterday, I firmly believe that moderate, but piquant conservative critics are important to the health of our country -- we may not like the lone wolf, but it's no good letting the sheep population get out of control.

Then CN. posted two devastating reviews, one of the new memoir by Cornel West, one of the new novel by Paul Auster. Both are wide-ranging castigations, not just of these individual works, but of the life's projects of these figures. In West's case, a powerful and new kind of mind seems to have been co-opted by fame. Auster's case seems much worse if this critic can be believed: he was never more than a hack, though some readers apparently believed mistakenly that he was "post-modern," and thus a more serious craftsman. There's a lot to argue with in both reviews, but taken together I wonder if they might represent a least an effort to revive no-nonsense, common-sense, critical thinking that seems to have dropped sadly out of the political world.

Thursday, December 3

Kung Fu Panda: It's almost like studying

Notes on the day

I still didn't get anything done on my thesis, but I did get all of my papers graded, which provided the great feeling of accomplishment that comes with any task completed. This, in turn, will hopefully encourage to complete more.

I took off the afternoon and went on errands: groceries, bike shop, library. I read a bit from Girl Rebel, and I should have finished the book, but decided to watch Kung Fu Panda with A. instead. Over dinner and before the movie A. and I had an animated discussion focused on how we might write an erotic science fiction story. I took a single note:

"1069.cn -- what a terrible name for a short story!"


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday, December 2

Trailer for "Autumn Gems," a new film about Qiu Jin

Notes on the day.

The most disturbing thing about my work is that there has been zero time for my dissertation since I returned from Thanksgiving.

Today I mainly graded papers, and I have some hope that I can finish these by tomorrow. But even then, I still have to finish up next semester's syllabus and write the final exam for this semester. It's been awhile since I went to see Jean Tretter and communicated with our designer D., so I should get back to that as well.

Still, teaching has been fun, and the progression Lao She 老舍 -> Xie Bingying 謝冰瑩 -> Yang Jiang 楊絳 feels right, if just to help see the variety of Chinese responses to modernity. Lao She can't help but express his fondness for Old Peking; Xie Bingying strives for revolution with a capital "R;" Yang Jiang expresses her nostalgia in the middle of a Revolution. I told my students to picture an actual crossroads, with the left heading off towards "tradition" and the right heading off towards "modernity." These are not actually single paths, of course, but it's a convenient graphic to place different cultural elements: marriage becomes a piece of "tradition" for Xie Bingying, for example. It then becomes interesting that Yang Jiang and Lao She both had highly celebrated and (apparently) successful marriages. Since these marriages also turned out to be fairly equal, with the wives of both pairings gaining fame and recognition as well, marriage in the end turned out to be a fairly modern institution. (Granted, that's not an argument yet, but at least it's a brainstorm.)

In reading group tonight Hu Xiangyu brought a short memorial to the Emperor Shunzhi by Liu Yuyou 劉餘佑 on the subject of "laws for fugitives" 逃人法. I wasn't quite able to share Xiangyu's enthusiasm, but I would love to learn more about the career and execution of Shunzhi's advisor Chen Mingxia 陳明夏 and also Shunzhi's concubines.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who's that Monk?

Who is this?

I finished grading my students' responses to paintings from the Puys Collection at the Weisman Art Museum. They did a great job -- only a few had any insights or connections, but everybody was able to write descriptively about the paintings, which was all I asked.

I just wish I knew more about this painting...

Working with Ann Waltner's reading group, I got this much of the colophon figured out (Update: with Paul Rouzer's help I corrected the first two characters):
面壁歸來低眉裹手慧業一燈河漁授受日畢少翻經_生淘垢_破我心康寧福壽唐_ 松雲

Wall meditation, lowered brows and grasped hands, enterprise of wisdom one light, river and fisherman give and take. At days end flip through the sutra a little bit, __ life washed-up dust __ moved my heart, wishing you health, Tang _- Song Yun. (Seal: Song Yun)

With Paul's help, I think we can confirm definitely that this is a painting of Bodhidharma. The following translation of one of the stories about Bodhidharma is not relevant to this painting, but I'll leave it here anyway.

The 'story of the returning West with one shoe' :

In Northern Wei there was an emissary, Song Yun. When he returned from the Western frontier to his country, he had no idea that Bodhidharma was long dead. When his path passed the mixed peaks (Mt. Kunlun, etc.), he saw Boddhidharma, with his hands holding a single shoe, headed west. Song Yun recognized him, and said, "Where is the monk going?" Bodhidharma said, "I'm returning to the Western heaven." Song Yun returned to the capital. He reported this to the emperor. The emperor thought it was strange, and so ordered Bodhidharma's coffin to be exhumed for inspection. Inside the coffin there only remained a single shoe, or so they say..." (This text off a hotel website. How scholarly!)


Monday, November 30

Xie Bingying at the scene of slaughter: Changsha, 1937. Photo from here (lots more at this bbs).

After hearing Charlie Murphy talk about how important daily notes were to his self-improvement as a comedian, and then watching Vice President Joe Biden talk about tracking government spending at recovery.gov, I decided to try to make this blog a bit more rigorous in the following ways:

1. I'll leave a note reporting my progress every single day.
2. Like Charlie, I'll report on "what I did wrong," and try to improve.

November 30 was the last day of November. I returned from break and spent Monday morning preparing my second lecture on Lao She, which went quite well. In the afternoon, I talked with the faculty a bit about my course for next semester. Later, I struggled to be a productive in the pile of grading that I needed to do. I didn't work at all in the evening. As usual, time seems to be my biggest enemy.


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We are all wanderers along the way.