Past Workshops

The Confucius Seminar

Organized by Mark Csikszentmihalyi (East Asian Languages and Literature; Religious Studies) and Julia Murray (Art History), along with Sarah Thal (History) and Zhou Yongming (Anthropology), the Confucius Seminar is a Mellon Workshop funded for 2006-07 through the UW Center for the Humanities. We plan to meet once a month, often with guest speakers, to examine both the historical Confucius and later constructions and representations of Confucius.

The legacies of Confucius influence life not only in the Chinese diaspora, but also in Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. Yet images of Confucius are diverse and interpretations of his work differ, and his name has been used to support radically different agendas. For thousands of years, diverse groups have deployed the writings and lore of Confucius to authorize (or, occasionally, condemn) values, virtues and social theories. Most recently, China has established "Confucius Institutes" to teach Chinese language and culture in other Asian countries, using his image to project Chinese interests and influence. But this appropriation of Confucius is just one of multiple contemporary uses of a figure who was redefined by every dynasty in Chinese history and venerated as an exemplar of a particular way to live.

Our Mellon Workshop will weigh historical claims about Confucius and examine the process by which the image of the sage has been and continues to be re-appropriated, both inside and outside of East Asia. The focus in the fall semester will be on the historical figure of Confucius, while meetings in the spring will consider later constructions and representations.

We encourage all interested faculty, staff, and graduate students to come to our first meeting and participate in deciding on the topics and speakers for future gatherings.


Friday, September 8: Inaugural Meeting
206 Ingraham Hall, 4:00-5:00 PM
All invited to attend.

November 17, 2006: "Clues to the Formation of the Analects" with Mark Csikszentmihalyi, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of East Asian Languages and Literature, and Program in Religious Studies, UW-Madison
1418 Van Hise, 4:30-6:00 PM

January 26, 2007
Michael Nylan, UC-Berkeley, "The Confucius of the Analects versus the Confucius of the Shiji"
206 Ingraham
4:30-6:00 PM

February 23, 2007
Thomas Wilson, Hamilton College , "Reconsidering Confucius on gods"
206 Ingraham
4:30-6:00 PM

Thomas A. Wilson of Hamilton College will discuss Confucius's pronouncements on ghosts and spirits, refuting the conventional modern belief that the ancient master avoided discussing the supernatural. Instead, Wilson will show how traditional interpreters used Confucius's ideas in creating rituals for sacrificing to the gods in the imperial pantheon -- which included Confucius.

March 9, 2007
Julia K. Murray, UW-Madison, "Representations of Confucius: Distinctions between Portraits, Icons, and Narrative Illustrations"
206 Ingraham
4:30-6:00 PM

April 13, 2007
Deborah Sommer, Gettysburg College, "Images for Iconoclasts"
206 Ingraham
4:30-6:00 PM

Philip J. Ivanhoe, Boston University, "Whose Confucius? Which Analects?"