Text as Tradition: Han Commentary and the Rise of Classical Scholarship


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


East Asian Studies


This dissertation studies the history and reception of Han dynasty (206 BC-220 CE) commentarial texts on the Confucian classics. It focuses on the reception of these texts through both ancient and modern contexts, and argues that such texts are largely a product of Qing (1644-1911 CE) and Republican era (1912-1949 CE) constructions of “classical scholarship” as a modern discipline. Through an analysis of reconstructed Han texts and excavated manuscripts, the project demonstrates that modern narratives that purport to deliver “original” readings of these texts are largely based on anachronistic definitions of the terms “classic” and “commentary” as they apply to early notions of reading, writing, and interpretation.