Metamorphoses: Archival Fictioning and the Historian’s Craft


In attempting to understand early modern science and medicine from Chinese natural history to Manchu translations of bodily gesture and sensation, my work has placed the history and translation of metamorphic stories at its center. For our gathering – intended more as a conversation about craft than a formal talk – I will introduce recent work in which I have been expanding my practice to integrate short fiction and prose poetry as modes of reading and analyzing historical documents. The focus of my attention will be a new project called Metamorphoses that is loosely inspired by the work of Ovid and is devoted to creating stories of material transformation through creative readings and misreadings of primary source documents that derive from (or are oriented toward) early modern China.

Carla Nappi is Associate Professor of History and Canada Research Chair of Early Modern Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her first book, The Monkey and the Inkpot: Natural History and its Transformations in Early Modern China (Harvard, 2009) was a study of belief-making in early modern Chinese natural history through the lens of the Bencao gangmu (1596), a compendium of materia medica. Her current research explores practices and contexts of translation in the Ming and Qing periods.