Inscribing the “Airs” of Suzhou: Vernacular Soundscape, Local Knowledge, and Cultural Hybridity in Early Modern China, 1450 to 1650


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants


Premodern Chinese Literature


My dissertation takes the polymathic writer and editor Feng Menglong (1574-1646)’s engagement with folk literature featuring Wu dialect as a point of departure, and probes his commercial sensations through the lens of the vernacular patterns of literary invention formulated and practiced by Wu-speaking communities approximately from the mid-15th through the 17th century. In so doing, it situates Feng’s incentives to transcribe local sounds in the changing landscape of cultural-linguistic experimentation manifested in style and genre. New formats of expression facilitated by print attested to how the new artistry of writing redefined the epistemology of “Suzhouness.” I argue that the cultural production hinged on Suzhou audiences’ shared urban experience gave rise to an aesthetic reframing of the region.