Cecile Chu-Chin Sun

  • Professor Emerita, Premodern Chinese Literature

Courses Taught

  • Classical Chinese
  • Classical Chinese Poetry
  • Chinese-Western Comparative Poetry (cross-listed with the English Department at Pitt)
  • Great Minds of China (Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi and Monk Huineng)
  • Exploring China from Roots to Blooms (including the formation of Chinese characters; the concept of Qi; the Book of Changes; the military strategy of Sunzi; and the aesthetics of Chinese gardens)
  • Traditional Chinese Fiction
  • Modern Chinese Fiction
  • Seminar on the Dream of the Red Chamber

Education & Training

  • PhD in Comparative Literature from Indiana University, winner of the Kinsley award for the best dissertation
  • MA in Chinese Literature from Harvard University
  • MA in English Literature from Boston College
  • BA in English Literature from National Taiwan Normal University, Summa cum Laude, No. 1 in graduating class and throughout the four years at NTNU

Representative Publications

  • The Poetics of Repetition in English and Chinese Lyric Poetry, (Chicago: Chicago University Press, January, 2011) (A Chinese translation of the book is under consideration). An Introduction to the book in Chinese (5,000 characters) appeared in the first issue of Chinese Studies Abroad (當代海外研究), Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, July, 2011.
  • Pearl From the Dragon’s Mouth: Evocation of Scene and Feeling in Chinese Poetry (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies Publication, The University of Michigan, 1995).
  • “Wang Guowei (1877-1927) as Translator of Values,” in Translation and Creation, ed. David Pollard (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co), 1998: 253-283.
  • “Cultural Dimensions of Translation: The Case of Translating Classical Chinese Poetry into English,” Tamkang Review, Vol.XXXI, No. 4 -XXXII, No. 1 (Summer-Autumn, 2001): 59-97.
  • “Time and Space Module: Classical and Modern Chinese Poetry.”  A 21-page (Classical Poetry, 10 pages; Modern Poetry, 11 pages) contribution commissioned by the University of Pittsburgh and issued as a component of the China Module Project in CD-ROM, Contemporary Chinese Societies: Continuity and Change. Ed. The University of Pittsburgh China Studies Faculty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).
  • “Conformity and Dissent Module:  Poetry as Cultural Catharsis.”  A 22-page contribution commissioned by the University of Pittsburgh and issued as a component of the China Module Project in CD-ROM, Contemporary Chinese Societies: Continuity and Change. Ed. The University of Pittsburgh China Studies Faculty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).
  • “Two Views on Mutability: A Comparative Reading of Chinese and English Poems,” Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press), Vol. 51 (2003-04): 143-158.
  • “莊子惠子與濟慈” (“Zhuangzi, Huizi, and Keats,”) in Wenshi Zhishi (Chinese Literature and History), (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju), October, 2004: 83-87.
  • “Mimesis and Xing--Two Modes of Viewing Reality: Comparing English and Chinese Poetry,” in Comparative Literature Studies as a Special Issue on Classics and Contemporary Literature/Culture/Theory (University Park: Penn State University), Vol. 43, No. 3 (2006): 325-353.
  • “談孟浩然的 ‘春曉’ (“Reading ‘Spring Dawn’ by the Tang Poet, Meng Haoran,”) in Wenshi zhishi (Chinese Literature and History), (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju), April, 2009: 31-33.
  • “閑思無知之樂”(“The Pleasure of Ignorance à la Paul Valéry  with a Close Reading of Poem No. 129 from the Book of Songs,” ) in Bolan qunshu (Chinese Book Review Monthly), (Beijing: Bolan qunshu), March, 2010: 95-97.
  • “懸懸之心”(“Filial Piety as Remembered by a Great Modern Chinese Painter: A Close Reading of Poem No. 110 from the Book of Songs,”) in Zhonghua Dushu Bao (China Reading Weekly) (Beijing: Guangming Daily), February 3, 2010: 3.
  • “《色戒》的 两個版 本: 評 張愛玲小 說 兼 談李安的電 影 in Sixiang (Reflexion) (Taipei: Lianjing chubanshe), May, 2010: 124-131.  The English version of this article with some modifications is “Two Versions of Se/Jie : Eileen Chang’s Fiction and Ang Lee’s Lust/Caution” in Lust/Caution: From Eileen Chang to Ang Lee, to be published by Rutledge (London) in 2011, 31 pp.
  • “When Metaphor is Not Metaphor: The Chinese Counterpart to Western Metaphor in Lyric Poetry,” in Symbolism: An International Annal of Critical Aesthetics, Vol. 11 (New York: AMS Press, 2011): pp. 207-224.

Other Papers Completed and to be Submitted to Suitable Journals:

  • Translation of Wang Zong-yue’s ‘Theory of Taiji’ (July, 2006)
  • “The Pursuit of the Ideal with a Close Reading of Poem No. 129 from the Book of Songs” (June, 2009)
  • “The Defining Nature of the Lyric across Cultural Boundaries: The Internal Paradox between Form and Content” (June, 2009)
  • “Our First Inkling of Beauty” (July, 2009)
  • “Natural Piety in Childhood: Wordsworth and the Notion of Sincerity in Confucian and  Daoist Thinking” (July, 2009)

Academic Activities

  • International Conference on Early Modern Chinese Literature: Translation and Creation, The Chinese University of Hong Kong,  Jan. 3-6, 1996.  Paper on “Wang Guowei (1877-1927) as a Translator of Cultural Values.”
  • Association of Asian Studies (AAS) Conference in Boston, March, 1999.  Paper on “Cultural Dimensions of Translation.”
  • Twelfth World Congress of Applied Linguistics (AILA), Tokyo, Japan, August 6, 1999. Paper on “Ecology, Language, Nature, and Man.”
  • “Comparative Literature and Translation in the Chinese-Western Contexts,” a two-hour lecture given at National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, June 4, 2000.
  • “Comparing Chinese and Western Poetry from the Perspective of Translation,” at the Graduate Institute of Comparative Literature, Fu-jen Catholic University, Taipei, Taiwan, June 21, 2000.
  • “Limitations of Poetry Translation: Chinese-English and English-Chinese,” at the Graduate Institute of Translation, National Taiwan Normal University, June 28, 2000.
  • “Bridging Chinese and Western Culture,” a two-session radio broadcast at the invitation of the “Voice of China” Broadcasting Station in Taiwan for Chinese audiences all over the world, July 14 and July 21, 2001.
  • “Translation and Biculturalism,” a public talk as part of the prestigious Annual Humanities Lecture Series sponsored by National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan, Dec. 14, 2002.
  • “Two Modes of Repetition in Chinese and Anglo-American Poetry,” at the Graduate Institute of Comparative Literature, Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taipei, April 24, 2003.
  • “Wide Seas and Mulberry Fields in Chinese and Western Poetry,” at the Graduate Program of Comparative Literature of Soochow University, Taipei, Dec. 18, 2004.
  • American Comparative Literature Association, University of Michigan, April 16, 2004.  Paper on “Translationality and Transnationality.”
  • International Conference on Arts and Humanities, University of Hawaii, Jan. 10, 2004.  Paper on “Distinctions between Chinese and English Poetry.”                            
  • International Conference of Comparative Literature, Hong Kong, August 8-16, 2004. Paper on “Two Views of Mutability: A Comparative Reading of Chinese and English Lyric Poetry.”
  • The 34th Annual Conference of the Mid-Atlantic Region Association of Asian Studies, University of Pittsburgh, October 29, 2005.  Paper on “Reorienting the Study of Chinese Literature/Culture.”
  • “Locating a Common Basis for Comparing Chinese and English Poetry,” a lecture given at the Graduate Institute of  Comparative Literature, Fu-Jen Catholic University, Taipei, December 21, 2005.
  • “Comparing the Radical Distinctions in Chinese and English Lyric Poetry,” a lecture given to the Shanghai Branch of the Association of Comparative Literature, Shanghai, China, July 12, 2006.
  • “Methodology of Conducting Chinese-Western Comparative Literature Studies: The Case of Lyric Poetry” at the Graduate Institute of Comparative Literature, National Tsing-hua University, Beijing, June 14, 2007.
  • “The Current Status of Chinese-Western Comparative Literature Studies” at the Beijing University-Fujen University Comparative Literature Forum, at Fujen University, Taiwan, June 27-28, 2007.
  • A keynote speech on “Translation of Chinese Literature and Its Cultural Orientation,” at Conference on Translation organized by the National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan, July 26, 2008.
  • A public talk of three hours to the Translation and Interpretation Society of Taiwan on “Translation of Chinese Classics and Poetry in the Context of Chinese Cultural Orientation,” Taipei, Taiwan, Aug. 12, 2008.
  • “’Lust and Caution’ as Fiction by Ailing Zhang and as Film by Ang Lee,” at a Conference on “'Lust and Caution’ ” organized by the Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, August 13, 2008.
  • “First Things First: Establishing the necessary critical conditions for comparing disparate literatures between China and the West,” to the Graduate Institute of Comparative Literature: Shanghai Normal University, Oct. 19, 2009. Shanghai.
  • “The Language of Chinese Poetry” at a Graduate Seminar on Comparativ Poetry and Poetics at Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan, March, 25, 2010.
  • “The Paradox of Poetic Repetition,” a talk sponsored by the Asian Studies Center, University of Pittsburgh, Oct. 28, 2010.

Research Interests

One of Confucius’s remarks about himself in the Analects, “學不厭,教不誨,” can hardly find a better equivalent than Chaucer’s description of the Oxford clerk in his Canterbury Tales: “And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.”  Aside from the joy of discovering such a happy meeting of minds across continents and millennia, I find these sayings succinctly describe what I am all about.

Coming from a family where the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge has always been a reality of everyday life, I have been naturally and gladly inclined to both learning and teaching. The word, “gladly,” for me, deals with the heart of the whole matter of learning and teaching.  It is what makes learning a continuously delightful process of discovery, and teaching, based on my experience at Pitt, an equally joyful and mutually beneficial enhancement between students and teacher.

After graduating Summa Cum Laude from the English Department at National Taiwan Normal University, I came to the United States for graduate studies, receiving an M.A. in English Literature at Boston College and another M.A. in Chinese Literature from Harvard University. After a stint of working as a simultaneous interpreter at the United Nations and teaching interpretation, I resumed my graduate work and earned my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at Indiana University; my thesis won the Kinsley award for best dissertation. Before coming to Pitt, I taught at the Department of Chinese Literature at the National Tsing-hua University in Taiwan and at the Department of English Literature at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Teaching mostly Chinese literature/culture courses to students living in modern America since I joined the Pitt faculty, I firmly believe that the first principle is to make these courses meaningfully relevant and vividly interesting. This is achieved by carefully choosing and explicating those seminal and representative works of lasting value from the Chinese tradition as well as modern examples and stories related to the students’ interests.  A corollary principle is teaching through comparison. Here is where my training in comparative literature/culture studies comes in handy, since I draw upon well thought-out examples and texts from the West and compare/contrast them with their Chinese counterparts.  This has proven to be most effective in illustrating a difficult concept or particular literary/cultural work in the Chinese tradition.

My role in the Department is not only to help students move more knowledgably between China and the West through such comparative perspective, but also to assist them in linking China’s dynamic present to its glorious past as one continuous living tradition through its literature and culture.

On the more creative side, an additional future research goal is to produce a collection of familiar essays in Chinese and English, which combines serious scholarship with my personal take on literary/cultural topics, treated in a style that is not only accessible but of literary value in and of itself.  In recent years, I have already begun this exercise in Chinese, and have received very positive and encouraging feedback from scholars, writers, and publishers who have published these essays. I firmly believe that papers about literature should themselves be specimens of fine writing and, ideally, something that one has truly internalized as part of one’s overall perspective on life. Translating these articles into English would be an ultimate challenge to me as a bilingual and bicultural scholar-writer.

Fields of Research

1. Classical Chinese Lyric Poetry and Aesthetics

2. Chinese-Western Comparative Literature and Poetics

3.  Traditional Chinese Thought Systems (Confucianism, Daoism, Chan Buddhism)

4.  Traditional and Modern Chinese Literature

5.  Cross-cultural Translation

6.   Daoist aesthetics