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Assistant Professor of Chinese Language
College of Letters and Science
days, the Big Concerns for most people are topics like the millennium
bug or the Asian financial flu. Not in David Schaberg's world.
the perspective of the stuff I work on," says the 34-year-old
assistant professor of Chinese thought, "the whole last millennium
is current events."
"stuff" Schaberg refers to is the historical writings
of pre-Han and Han Period China, 206 B.C. to 220 A.D., which he
has burrowed into for the last 13 years. Schaberg's work is distinguished
by his mastery of Chinese, Greek and Latin, his knowledge of the
primary historical texts from each culture and his ability to examine
those works through the prism of the latest literary and critical
current research examines history as narrative, looking at the connections
between Chinese historical writings and fictional storytelling.
He describes the foundations of Chinese historical writing and how
the works' compilers wrote their histories in order to justify the
world views of certain philosophical schools, especially that of
Confucius. Schaberg then compares those methods with those of their
contemporaries in Greece, who also were dealing with questions of
history as storytelling and history as science.
finishing his current work, which includes translations of three
early Confucian histories, Schaberg continues to work on cross-cultural
influences. In May, he delivered a Chinese-Greek cross-cultural
paper, "Travel, Geography and the Imperial Imagination in Fifth-Century
Athens and Han China," at a University of Oregon humanities
conference. It will appear this year in the journal Comparative
Literature. The paper examines how both Chinese and Greek writers
saw differences and similarities in their encounters with "the
Other" -- the "so-called barbaric world," Schaberg
also is looking forward to his next project: a comparison of histories
written under the early Chinese and Roman empires. To find such
connections, Schaberg, who earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature
from Harvard in 1996, has to dig deep into difficult, ancient languages.
If Schaberg's work sounds a little esoteric for the new millennium,
consider the role China is playing in the modern world. "These
works are important as windows into what was going on in early China,"
notes the professor. "Understanding how the early histories
worked in forming the Confucian tradition helps us understand what's
true about Chinese ideas today. And as China becomes more and more
important, a greater knowledge of how its past was envisioned will
be important, too."