Xiaofei Tian - Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University
How does one remember a traumatic experience, write about it, and turn it into a work of literature? How does traumatic memory shape its literary representation, and how does its literary representation in turn shape one’s memory? The study of trauma became prominent in the twentieth century with the rise of psychoanalysis and the outbreak of the World Wars, especially after the Holocaust; but the causes of trauma—war, death, violence, displacement—had appeared throughout human history. What happens when the received language of poetry resists the representation of pain and trauma? In the case of a sixth-century aristocratic Chinese poet, Yu Xin (513-581), the common questions about traumatic memories and their literary representation are more complicated.
Xiaofei Tian is Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard University. She is the author of Tao Yuanming and Manuscript Culture, Beacon Fire and Shooting Star: The Literary Culture of the Liang (502-557), and Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-century China. Her translation of a nineteenth-century memoir, The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath, was awarded the inaugural Patrick D. Hanan Translation Prize in 2016. Her new book, The Halberd at Red Cliff: Jian’an and the Three Kingdoms, is forthcoming from Harvard University Asia Center Press. She is currently working on a book tentatively entitled Writing Empire, Writing Self in Early Medieval China.