The Newsletter 92 Summer 2022

IIAS Fellow in the spotlight: Elizabeth Smithrosser

Elizabeth Smithrosser

IIAS Research Cluster: Asian Heritages
1 February – 31 July 2022

Written Traditions of Jokes and Humour in Pre-Modern China

I am first using my Fellowship with IIAS to finish an annotated translation of three pre-modern Chinese jokebooks for Oxford University Press. After that, I will revise my 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.

My Fellowship at IIAS began in February 2022, a few months after graduating from my PhD in the United Kingdom. At that point in time, there were a lot of different tasks on my plate: several conference papers, a thesis to revise into a monograph, keeping up with my regular column for, a book-length translation of pre-modern Chinese jokebooks, not to mention job applications.

My time at the Institute so far has provided me with the space and facilities to work towards all of these projects. As an IIAS Fellow, I have access to a physical office overlooking the picturesque Rapenburg canal. The community of staff and Fellows that gather in the building are working on different topics and regions at a variety of career stages and come with a range of life experiences, which has led to fruitful conversations and new friendships. I have especially appreciated the community feel of IIAS after two years of quarantine and working from home.

The first three months of my Fellowship have mostly been a rush to hand my book manuscript in by the deadline. Nevertheless, I did have the chance to soak in the sights of Leiden while walking to and from the University Library. Leiden is a city which confronts you with waterways, trees, old houses, and windmills from every angle. It is especially beautiful in the Spring. The different kinds of trees flowering one after the other ensures that there is always a spark of colour in every direction. The area in front of the National Museum of Ethnology (Museum Volkenkunde), a short walk from the IIAS office and the University Library, is home to nine cherry blossom trees which explode into bloom for a brief period in April. It makes for an excellent lunch spot. Within the bounds of the original city walls, there are lots of secret hofjes to explore. These are quaint courtyard-style residential areas complete with trees and gardens, accessed by an inconspicuous door in a wall, which often allow visitors if they explore quietly. Each hofje has its own story, with most having started out as alms-houses for widows or religious communities.

Now that I have submitted my book manuscript, I am looking forward to visiting the different sights around Leiden as well as the rest of the Netherlands before focusing on the next stage of my Fellowship.

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