Faculty Works-in-Progress with Hsiao-wen Cheng. Knowing Women: Medicine, Religion, and Female Sexuality in Medieval China

Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 9:30am

Faculty Works-in-Process with Hsiao-wen Cheng. East Asian Languages and Civilizations


Dr. Beth Linker, Associate Professor, History and Sociology of Science

Dr. Josephine Park, Associate Professor, English

GSWS Conference Room, 3810 Walnut Street (please note our new address)

This book project examines the attempts (including women's own) to know women's bodies, desires, and experiences, the efforts to turn individual experiences—especially those inexplicable and even mystic ones—into shared knowledge, as well as the dynamic interaction of those attempts. I look into the heterogeneity, contradiction, and innovation in such knowledge construction on the one hand, and the frustration, negotiation, and transformation of the men and women involved on the other. I envision this book to be both an intellectual history—to trace the changing and conflicting conceptualizations of women in relation to their sexuality in both elite and popular discourses; and a social history—to collect evidence of women’s efforts to know their own bodies and experiences and to claim authority of that knowledge. My sources range from standard histories, anecdotes, biji and zhiguai literature, to medical texts, Buddhist and Daoist hagiographies, temple inscriptions, and records of exorcist rituals from the Six Dynasties to the Song and the Yuan periods. The focus is on social and intellectual changes during the Song (960-1279). 

APC Faculty Works-in-Process Lunches are a forum for Penn faculty to present and receive feedback on their work in an informal setting. Those who attend the seminar will receive a copy of the "work-in progress" ahead of time. At the session, two respondents speak briefly (5-10 minutes) about the paper and then the session will be opened for discussion. Please let us know if you are interested in scheduling a WiP Lunch.

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