Strange Tales from Liaozhai:
January 20 - February 22, 2014
Sarah Lawrence, Slender Willow (2010).
Strange Tales from Liaozhai is a collection of 494 stories by the Chinese author Pu Songling (1640-1715), in which readers encounter supernatural creatures, natural disasters, magical aspects of Buddhist and Daoist spirituality, and a wide range of Chinese folklore. The first complete English translation, released in six volumes by Jain Publishing between 2008 and 2013, features illustrations by Ben Grant, Matt Howarth and Spencer Logan, as well as by St. Lawrence University students and alumni Alexandra Collins, Emma DayBranch, Leah Farrar, Sarah Lawrence, Christopher Peterson, Erik Russell, Megan Williams and Alexa Unser. The collection’s translator, Piskor Professor of English Sidney L. Sondergard, has offered courses on Confucian literature and on Chinese film (focusing on both Hong Kong and Mainland film industries), and has led several research trips with students to China.
The Chinese tradition of providing illustrations for the stories in the liaozhai zhiyi (Strange Tales from Liaozhai) collection is a significant reflection of the way in which the stories have been experienced by generations of readers. Pu Songling doesn’t present them as fictions, but as accounts of actual events. The reading experience, then, becomes less about suspending disbelief than about engaging “strangeness” as a facet of human experience that is both valuable for its insights and intriguing for its mysteries.
Matt Howarth, Chasing the Ghost and Shooting at the Fox, 2008.
Book celebrations are organized by the Faculty Development Committee and supported by the Center for Teaching and Learning.