by Margaret Wan (University of Utah)
February 8, 2017, University of Michigan
The study of traditional Chinese literature tends to focus on a well-known canon, neglecting the vast majority of extant works. My project aims to bring back the 90% or so of Chinese novels that are understudied. By using the MARKUS tool to mark up large numbers of digitized novel texts with place data from the Temporal Gazetteer (TGAZ), I am creating an overview of space in the traditional Chinese novel. This research, inspired by the work of Franco Moretti, will contribute to our understanding of popular literature, history of the book, and regional culture. Genres or texts that are figuratively “off the map” or at the margins of canonical Chinese literature have much to tell us about important questions such as the system of thematic genres that constitutes the Chinese novel or the relationship between local, regional, and national in late imperial China. Some of these works have remained largely unexplored because of the sheer volume of texts one has to master in order to understand these genres. One must read, but to understand the context, one must also count, graph and map. Digital approaches and new digital tools promise to expand what one scholar can accomplish.