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Antithetical Couplets on Snuff Bottles as an Introduction to Chinese Poetry

image of snuff bottle with Chinese poem inscription
February 8, 2018 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
East Asia Library, Room 224, 518 Memorial Way
Stuart Sargent - Former Visiting Professor at Stanford University

Free and open to the public.  Please RSVP here.

About the talk:

This talk grows out of an article to be published in the Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society concerning couplets one sometimes finds inscribed on snuff bottles as part of their decoration. The article aims first to present briefly some important characteristics of Classical Chinese as a medium for poetry; this discussion may someday be rewritten as an introductory chapter in a textbook on reading Chinese poetry. Another purpose of the article is to correct the common practice among dealers of referring to these couplets as “poems”—which raises the question of what constitutes the minimal poem in Chinese and why a couplet cannot be a poem. The answer to this question takes us back to the variety of possible relationships between an inscribed couplet and its bottle and a discussion of what kinds of poems or couplets are appropriate or inappropriate for snuff bottles. In short, this talk offers us the chance to exchange ideas on ways of presenting Chinese poetry to the non-specialist who has at least some interest in the arts of China and also to consider issues of a more literary and theoretical nature.

About the speaker:

Stuart Sargent received his doctorate from Stanford University in 1977 and taught at the University of Maryland College Park from 1979 to 1996; while at UMCP, he chaired his college’s faculty council during a major curriculum reform and later obtained funding for and directed the NEH University of Maryland Summer Institute for Teachers of Chinese. From 1996 to 2005, he was at Colorado State University, where he developed and directed a new major in International Studies, with concentrations in Asian, European, and Latin American studies. In 2005, he moved to France and finished his book on the shi poetry of He Zhu, which was published by Brill in 2007. He has published in both Chinese and English on other Song-dynasty poets, as well; in addition, he has written on the relationship between print technology and the lyric, the similarities between Xin Qiji and Robert Herrick as lyricists, the poetic ontology of Ye Xie, and relationships between Song and Tang poetry and between Japanese and Chinese poetry. Most relevant to today’s talk is his 1992 article in HJAS on poems by Su Shi and Huang Tingjian written on or about paintings, where he raised some of the issues that he will discuss today. He taught at Stanford in 1978 and 1979, and again in 2003 and 2004 while on sabbatical from Colorado State; from 2006 to 2011 he was Visiting Professor of Chinese Poetry at Stanford. Since 2007, he has been working on numerous books and catalogues with Hugh Moss, probably the leading Western expert on snuff bottles alive today.

Free and open to the public.  Please RSVP here.

Event Sponsor: 
Stanford University Libraries, East Asia Library, Center for East Asian Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
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