April 26, 2018 at Yenching Auditorium, 2 Divinity Avenue

April 27, 2018 at Belfer Case Study Room (S020), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street


In honor of Harvard University Professor Stephen Owen’s retirement from teaching, the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University will convene an international symposium on Chinese and comparative literatures on April 26 and 27, 2018, at Harvard University. Papers will span the many fields within which Professor Owen’s contributions have been felt, and allow participants, drawn from among Owen’s graduate advisees and from the top scholars of Chinese and comparative literature around the world, to reflect upon the ways these fields have changed over the course of his long teaching career and the new directions in which they are developing, and should develop, in the years ahead.


A prolific author, translator, and editor in all periods of Chinese literary studies, and a devoted teacher to his numerous graduate and undergraduate students for over forty-five years, Stephen Owen has done as much as any living scholar to introduce the riches of the Chinese literary tradition to Western audiences both scholarly and popular, to reflect upon its contribution to the world’s literary heritage, and to revolutionize the ways it is read, not only in the Western world, but also in East Asia. Owen has authored twelve scholarly monographs on Chinese literature; edited four volumes; published well over eighty scholarly articles in English and Chinese; translated thousands of pages of Chinese verse; and served as the primary graduate advisor to over forty PhD students, the vast majority of whom have gone on to teach Chinese literature at universities throughout the United States, Europe, and East Asia. His work is itself the subject of many studies in Chinese, ranging from PhD and MA theses to articles and monographs. Owen has been James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University since 1997, one of only twenty-five professors to hold that distinguished rank. He has served as a Senior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows, been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, been honored with the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale University, and received the Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award for his seminal contributions to the fields of Chinese and Comparative Literatures.


The symposium will feature thirty-two paper presentations, followed by two roundtable sessions of senior scholars in the field of Chinese literature, both from the West and from East Asia. The presentations will demonstrate the directions that classical Chinese literature, East Asian literature as larger field, and comparative literature are currently moving, and highlight the innovative methodologies and new questions that have come out of Owen’s teaching. The roundtable discussions will feature retrospective views of the transformations that have occurred within the field of Chinese literature in the past half a century as well as forward-looking views about classical Chinese literary studies in the age of globalization and global literature. By including panels organized both by period and by theme, the conference seeks to highlight Owen’s contributions to our knowledge of the basic materials of Chinese literature and to its theorization within comparative literary frameworks. The symposium as a whole will afford participants an opportunity to critically engage the breadth and complexity of the field of Chinese literature within an increasingly global scholarly world, thus carrying forward Owen’s legacy of resisting the disciplinary fragmentation that often characterizes fields as they mature.


The conference will be conducted in English and Chinese. It is open to the public.


Sponsored by the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, the Harvard University Asia Center, the Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the Harvard-Yenching Institute, the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard University.