Through our correspondence with Professor SHEN Hong–a medievalist at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China–we learned four interesting tidbits about the role Americans played in bringing English literature into China. According to Professor Shen,
1) American missionaries were among the first to introduce English literature into China through their writings and translations.
2) The earliest courses of English literature were established in missionary colleges and universities run by American missionaries.
3) American universities have trained Chinese students to be English scholars who, after returning to China, taught English literature to later generations of Chinese students.
4) Since the 1970s, quite a few American professors came to mainland China to teach English literature, including Chaucer.
At this point, we’re not certain if any of the Chaucerian corpus was among the texts brought by American missionaries. At first glance, this transmission route seems highly unlikely. If, however, the missionaries were selecting works from among the literary anthologies circulating at the beginning of the 19th century, then the missionaries could have found selections appropriate to their needs.
We look forward to learning more about this line of influence through the ongoing scholarship of two graduate students, ZHONG Lian at Hunan Normal University and XIAOLEI Sun at Shanghai International Studies University.