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Nathan Vedal
Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO 63130-4899)
The Category of Everything: Ordering and Circulating Knowledge in Early Modern China

Research leading to a book on the organization of knowledge in sixteenth- to eighteenth-century China, based on the digital analysis of reference works such as encyclopedias and dictionaries.

Research for a book on the circulation of information in 16th through 18th-century China. This study examines how early modern Chinese readers coped with an overabundance of texts and information following the 16th-century publishing boom. Drawing on a wide body of extant reference works, from encyclopedias to dictionaries, I trace the emergence of new scholarly working methods and analyze how such texts were put to use by readers. I argue that these reference works played a central role in the formation of a new relationship between author and reader that underpinned the period’s intellectual and literary activity. By shifting my analysis from the better-documented role of such works in the early modern West, I highlight practices of knowledge production that can be more broadly generalized to the early modern world. In addition this project incorporates innovative digital methods to analyze citation practices in massive encyclopedic compilations.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
East Asian History; East Asian Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/30/2020 – 8/29/2020