Elizabeth Smithrosser will use the first half of her time at IIAS to finish an annotated translation of three pre-modern Chinese jokebooks for Oxford University Press.
The three compilations, Aizi zashuo (艾子雜說), Aizi houyu (艾子後語), and Aizi waiyu (艾子外語) are all branches of a satirical tradition that began in the Song dynasty (960–1279) and surged in popularity amid the publishing boom of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), sparking several sequels. The compilations revolve around the fictional character Aizi (Master Ai), a wandering persuader-philosopher type who traverses the Warring States period (475–221BCE) as imagined in the Song and Ming, conversing with figures from the classical textual tradition, all the while making veiled remarks of pertinence to the socio-political issues of the Song and Ming. These compilations thus present a very interesting example of uses of classical inheritances, intertextuality and historical consciousness across several different points in Chinese history.
Elizbeth will use the second half of her fellowship to revise her PhD thesis into a monograph while preparing several accepted conference papers on humour publishing in late imperial China and methodologies for utilising humorous material to the advantage of historical research.
Her thesis, ‘Good Wood on Crowdpleasers’: Humour Publications in the Ming Wanli Period explored how an ascendant generation of world-savvy publishing bosses recycled, repurposed and repackaged materials from past dynasties to suit their Ming readerships while defending and justifying their decision to publish in the light of negative classical prescriptions and circumscriptions of humorous material. The monograph will broaden the scope of the thesis to cover a wider array of publications and time periods.