Dresher Center CURRENTS: Anna M. Shields and Teresa Foster

think_create_engage_red1Dresher Center for the Humanities CURRENTS
Monday, March 24 | 12:00 p.m.
Anna M. Shields: Set in Stone? Posthumous Accounts, Epitaphs, and the Writing of Mid-Tang Literati Biographies
Teresa Foster: ‘Pleading the Belly’: Convict Transportation and Motherhood
Dresher Center Conference Room (216 Performing Arts and Humanities Building)

The Dresher Center’s CURRENTS: Humanities Work Now lunchtime series showcases exciting new faculty work in a dynamic and interdisciplinary setting. Designed to promote ongoing conversation and multi-disciplinary investigation, these works-in-progress meetings offer faculty and advanced graduate students an informal venue for presentation, conversation, and ongoing collaborative exchange.

Anna M. Shields: Set in Stone? Posthumous Accounts, Epitaphs, and the Writing of Mid-Tang Literati Biographies
I am in the early stages of a new project on constructions of Tang dynasty (617-907) literary culture that were written during the Five Dynasties (907-976) and Northern Song (976-1127) eras in China. In this project I will explore key works about Tang writers and literature from the tenth through early twelfth centuries—focusing on historical biographies, poetry anthologies, and anecdote collections. As the earliest, most influential portraits of Tang literary culture for later Chinese readers these texts represent the Tang as the ultimate “literary” dynasty, reading Tang literature and writers through an increasingly narrow lens that frequently excluded the social and political dimensions of Tang writing. I will present a case study of funerary texts for the mid-Tang literatus Han Yu (768-824) that were used by tenth- and eleventh-century historians to write Han’s biography, showing the ways that later writers selected and erased certain components of the texts to construct a “Han Yu” that suited their broader view of the mid-Tang era.

Teresa Foster: ‘Pleading the Belly’: Convict Transportation and Motherhood
Women adjudged guilty of a felony and condemned to death could avoid the hangman’s noose by “pleading the belly” in eighteenth-century Britain. The respite of precious months offered by pregnancy was sufficient to receive a conditional pardon for transportation to the American colonies. The desirability of convict transportation as an alternative punishment to public hanging may appear obvious. However, much less obvious is the maternal sacrifice required of postpartum women forced to abandon their newborns to an uncertain fate. Removed by prison or parish officials, the children of convict mothers became fictive orphans. I argue that an examination of familial relations within the system of convict transportation reveals a codified pattern of gendered dehumanization through an abrogation of natal ties.

Admission is free. Attendees are welcome to enjoy lunch beginning at 11:30 a.m.

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