Overcoming Trivialities: Gossiping, Note-Taking, and the Problem of Information in Thirteenth-century China
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CitationTung, Yung-chang. 2021. Overcoming Trivialities: Gossiping, Note-Taking, and the Problem of Information in Thirteenth-century China. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation studies the social and cultural history of information collection and circulation in Song China (960-1276). Focusing on literati’s writing of the notebook (biji) genre in the thirteenth century, this dissertation investigates the ways in which literati utilized information to accumulate social and cultural capital, their strategies to counter the anxiety over their choice of genre, and the problems of triviality and unreliability in the information they collected at a time of crisis. Through analyzing the paratext, citation pattern, selection of topics, and techniques of verification in literati’s notebooks, this dissertation argues that by the thirteenth century, literati came to a consensus that although the boundaries and rules for writing notebooks were extremely flexible still, such writing was an effective way to engage with serious scholarship. Literati claimed that their casual and miscellaneous writings should be devoted to learning experience, instead of trivial materials that could be linked with the xiaoshuo tradition. By focusing on learning and the refinement of information, the notebook had moved from a marginal status to a more significant one in literati’s world of writing and learning.
The miscellaneous learning literati envisaged in their notebooks further indicates that by the thirteenth century, there was a parallel between the thriving Neo-Confucianism and a still strong interest in erudite knowledge. Although notebook authors frequently cited Neo-Confucian explanations on various topics, Neo-Confucianism was only one of the many streams while they attempted to maintain and justify the different types of erudition at a time when texts became more accessible.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37370220
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