12/9 Elvin Meng

PhD Student, Comparative Literature and EALC

“Cataloguing the Media Ecology of Qing Multilingualism: Patterns and Highlights”

Time: Friday, December 2, 2:30-4:30pm CT

Location: Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center Classroom (Regenstein Library Room 136)

Please note the unusual place and time!

Before arriving, please familiarize yourself with the guidelines of the Special Collections.

Abstract: The University of Chicago Library is home to one of North America’s largest collections of Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan rare books and manuscripts from the early modern period, acquired by the Library in several waves in the first half of the twentieth century. These non-Han (or at least, not-solely-Han) xylographs and manuscripts are important sources for understanding the necessarily-plural cultural, political, social, and intellectual histories of the Qing (Mnc. Daicing gurun; Mon. Dayičing ulus), a period whose cultural multiplicity partakes in a long tradition of Inner Asian modes of governance and whose legacy continues to this day.

Approaching this corpus of textual artifacts—and in particular the 71 Manchu language titles that have recently received an updated catalogue—through analytical bibliography and codicology (lato sensu), this presentation gives an introduction to the collection and explores the challenges its various material aspects (format, paper, inserts, ductus, marginalia, reading marks, manuscript composition) pose to the history of reading in a multilingual context. Thinking of this corpus as partaking in a media ecology consisting of interlinked and multi-modal practices of multilingual production, circulation, and consumption, conventional aggregates such as language and genre give way to more local, ambiguous forms of (multi-)languaging. This recognition of more-than-Chinese textual/material practice as overlooked loci of early modern thought, in turn, enables a renewed thinking on familiar questions such as the relationship between literacy and literature, or the nature of linguistic knowledge in the age of kaozheng xue.

Presenter: Elvin Meng is a joint PhD student in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His research interests include East Asian & European thought, media history & theory, translation, Manchu studies, history of linguistics & mathematics, and modernism.