MARGARET WAN

Curriculum Vitae

MARGARET WAN portrait
  • Associate Professor, World Languages and Cultures

Research

Research Summary

Chinese literature and culture of the late imperial period (Ming and Qing dynasties), especially vernacular literature, performance traditions, history of the book, cultural history, and legal culture.

Research Statement

My research centers on literature and popular culture in Qing and Republican China.  In the process of exploring some of the most widely read narratives of this age, such as martial arts fiction and court case drum ballads, I find myself drawn to interdisciplinary approaches including history of the book and studies of legal culture.  My first book, “Green Peony” and the Rise of the Chinese Martial Arts Novel (State University of New York Press, 2009), focuses on issues of literary genre and the relationship between popular and elite culture.  I was inspired to study the martial arts novel by my interest in the relationship between performance traditions and the novel in China, an interest which also led to my co-editing The Oral and the Written in Chinese Popular Literature with Vibeke Børdahl (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, 2010).   I also co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Yangzhou - A Place in Chinese Literature: The Local in Chinese Cultural History (University of Hawaii Press, forthcoming).  The volume grew out of an interest in local culture, as does my current book project.  I am writing a book about drum ballads as popular literature and regional culture. Drum ballad texts (guci) evoke one of the most popular of performance genres in north China in the Qing dynasty and early Republic (ca. 1800-1938). Circulating in manuscript, woodblock print, and eventually lithographic, editions, these texts not only drew on oral literature but also served as vehicles for the dissemination of popular stories throughout north China. Study of this body of narratives opens up surprising new perspectives on vital topics in Chinese literature and history: the creation of regional cultural identities and their relation to a central “Chinese culture”; the relationship between oral and written cultures; and the impact of the changing technology of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century on the reproduction and dissemination of popular texts.  This project was awarded an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship for 2010-2011.