Prof. Dr. Lionel Jensen

Bild von Lionel Jensen

Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung "Schicksal, Freiheit und Prognose. Bewältigungsstrategien in Ostasien und Europa"
Ulrich-Schalk-Str. 3a
91056 Erlangen

Home Institution: Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Notre Dame(USA)

IKGF Visiting Fellow Jan. - Jul. 2011

(Last change of profile by end of stay.)

IKGF Research Project:

Found and Lost in Tradition: Mythistories of Confucianism – Mantic and Divinatory Themes

Lionel Jensen, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Notre Dame, will be in residence at the Institute from January through July 2011. He received his Ph. D. in Chinese history from the University of California, Berkeley and his Master's in Asian Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. He has taught at the University of Colorado at Denver, the University of Pennsylvania, Oklahoma State University, and Whitman College. Jensen has received grants and fellowships from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, the University of Colorado Foundation, and the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame.

Jensen's research is identified closely with the intellectual history of "Confucianism"; however, his interests and published work extend from ancient, through medieval, modern and even contemporary topics. To this juncture, he has conducted research into Chinese religion and thought, folklore, early Sino-western contact, popular cults, comparative mythology, nationalism, and the psychopathology of the modern experience.

He is author of Manufacturing Confucianism: Chinese Traditions and Universal Civilization(1997), recognized in 1998 as the Best First Book in the History of Religions by the American Academy of Religion. In addition he has edited or co-edited five other works: China In and Beyond the Headlines (2011), China's Transformations: the Stories beyond the Headlines (2007); China Off Center: Readings on the Margin of the Middle Kingdom (2002), China Beyond the Headlines (2000), and Early China 20 (1997). Jensen is currently working on Found and Lost in Tradition: Mythistories of Confucianism. Under the rubric of mythistory–historical myths of a virtual rather than a real past that are sustaining of specific textual communities–the book attends to two episodes of tradition invention in early and medieval China disclosing the indecipherability of myth and history in the making of "Confucian" communities of memory formed around the figure of Kongzi and by Zhu Xi (1130-1200). Jensen has also begun work on another manuscript, "Universal Love, Western Science, and the New Chinese Century," which explores the ecumenical convergence of missionary religion, natural science, indigenous secret societies, and emergent nationalism in the work of the Hunanese political reformer and martyr of the Wuxu bianfa, Tan Sitong (1866-1898).

While he is in residence at the IKGF, Jensen will be completing work on this book manuscript, the middle chapters of which intersect precisely with the mantic and divinatory themes of Fate, Freedom, and Prognostication. These chapters explore the unique cultural ecology of southeast China in the twelfth century examining the creative tension between the prescriptive (texts and commentaries) and performative (sacrifice and prayer) of Zhu Xi's daoxue. The research focuses on a largely neglected dimension of the work of Zhu Xi, whose classical commentaries constituted the required syllabus for the empire's civil service examinations for nearly six centuries. This area of scholarly oversight is a "religious" section of Zhu's collected literary record devoted to prayer where one finds invocations of, and sacrifices to, the spirits of Kongzi and Mengzi, as well as the great sages of remote antiquity. "Religion" in this instance denotes specific cultic behaviors of spiritual intercession, personation of the dead, sacrifice, shrine and temple worship that punctuated the daily life of the twelfth-century Fujian and Zhejiang. Juxtaposing this everyday record with the "rational" metaphysics of Zhu, the chasm long separating elite from popular cultural studies is bridged by a tacit admission that the bifurcation of religion into high and low registers does not readily agree with the facts on the ground. The research here into the mantic and prognosticative gives breadth to the world of popular belief within which Zhu Xi was raised and reveals a more complex, human philosopher very much embedded in the demons and spirits of a vernacular cosmology that provided the foundation of his philosophy. Most notably, the investigation discloses that the performative frame for Zhu's prescriptive tradition of daotong ("genealogy of the way") was built from the popular rites of spirit possession and commemoration of the dead, thus making his exclusivist claim of transmission of the dao highly resistant to confutation.


Selected Publications

Zhizao ruxue: Zhongguo chuantong he pushi wenming 制造儒学: 中国传统和普世文明 (Chinese translation of Manufacturing Confucianism) Beijing: Beijing University Press, 2010.

"Spirits, Flesh, and Philosophy: Zhu Xi and the Mythistory of Neo-Confucianism," forthcoming. Oriens Extremus, vol. 50 (2011).

"Conflict and the Confluence of Cultures: Overcoming the East/West Mindset," Anthony Clark, ed., Beating Devils and Burning their Books: Views of China, Japan, and the West. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Asian Studies, 2010, 107-132.

"Kongzi: yesheng de shengren, ganyun er shengde shenhua dianxing" 孔子: 野生的圣人,感孕而生的神话典型. In Xia Hanyi 夏含夷 ed., Yuanfang de shixi: Gudai Zhongguo 远方的时习:古代中国. Shanghai: Guji chubanshe, 2008, 87-116.

" ′Shards of Ming′: Culture and Improvisation in Enterprises Great and Small." In Yeh Wen-hsin, Joseph W. Esherick, and Madeleine Zelin, eds., Empire and Beyond: Historical China from Ming to the Republic. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2006, 169-191.

"Legends of Confucius." In Victor Mair, Nancy Steinhardt, and Paul Goldin, eds., Hawai'i Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2005, 234-238.

"Zai daota de ouxiang yu gaogui de mengxiang zhi jian: Zhongguo sixiang shi lingyu de zhaji" 在倒塌的偶像与高贵的梦想之间 : 中国思想史领域的札记 (Chinese translation of "Among Fallen Idols and Noble Dreams: Notes from the Field of Chinese Intellectual History"). In Tian Hao 田浩, ed., Songdai sixiang shilun 宋代思想史论. Beijing: Shehui Kexue Wenxian chubanshe, 2003, 30-76.

"The Genesis of Kongzi in Ancient Narrative: The Figurative as Historical." In Thomas A. Wilson, ed., On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics and the Formation of the Temple of Confucius. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2003, 175-221.