This coming Thursday, I will be presenting a paper at the 2016 MLA Convention in Austin, TX. I will present some of my work on gāthās in medieval China as part of Paul Rouzer’s panel Scripture as Literature: Reading East Asian Religions.
Chinese literature, especially classical Chinese literature, has historically played a very small role in the MLA, despite representing something like 1/5 of the world’s population and one of the most developed literary traditions in the world. But change is coming: just as sinologists are learning to speak beyond their own realm of expertise, so are world and comparative literature scholars seeking voices beyond the modern west (what psychologists have called WEIRD people, those from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic societies). The works of people like Alexander Beecroft and Eric Hayot are particularly promising in this regard. Panels on Asian literature at the MLA, even if they form only 16 of 840 of all panels (or 2%), are another sign of progress. Let’s hope that some people from, say, the two panels on Karl Ove Knausgård wander in to our discussion of East Asian literature.