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Guest Lecture by Ben Brose (University of Michigan): Modern Reinterpretations of the Journey to the West

Jul 19, 2018 02:00 pm to 04:00 pm

"Translating Liturgy into Literature: Modern Reinterpretations of the Journey to the West"

Abstract: The Journey to the West is one of the best known early Chinese novels. This talk will reconsider basic assumptions about the history and function of this book to argue that the Journey to the West served an important ritual and liturgical function before and after it was reconceived as a work of secular literature. The “novel” will be briefly considered from two related perspectives. The first is the early history of its European and North American translations. Arthur Waley’s celebrated abridgment marked an important turning point in a long tradition of interpreting the novel for a Western audience. Prior to Waley, most translators remarked—with either curiosity or exasperation—on the novel’s influence on popular religious practice and belief. Following Waley, however, the novel was consistently portrayed as a work of fiction, and its religious imagery was downplayed or dismissed as inconsequential. The second perspective to be explored is that of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Chinese reformers who sought to enlist the Journey to the Westin their vision of a new, modern, and secular China. The efforts of these intellectuals and officials, influenced to a degree by Western missionaries and scholars, effectively transformed the Journey to the West into work of non-threatening, entertaining fiction.

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Ben_Brose_19_July.pdf

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