History Professor Sarah Queen awarded NEH grant to translate influential early Chinese texts
Connecticut College Professor of History Sarah A. Queen has been awarded a $199,959 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to translate two of the world’s earliest written commentaries on the Confucian classic Chunqiu, or “Spring and Autumn Annals.”
The Gongyang and Guliang commentaries have exerted tremendous influence on Chinese political and intellectual life for two millennia. Instrumental in elevating Confucius to the status of one of the greatest sages of Chinese culture, the texts envision him as author of the “Annals,” bequeathing to future generations this court chronicle containing a hidden and esoteric blueprint for world salvation.
“This particular group of interpreters ascribed to Confucius a theocratic utopian vision grounded in a ritual order associated with the golden age of the Zhou dynasty. By decoding Confucius’ careful word choices, it was possible to reveal his hidden message to restore human flourishing to the Chinese world,” Queen said.
Queen will work with collaborating scholars, including Joachim Gentz, chair of Chinese philosophy and religion at the University of Edinburgh, to produce the first scholarly English translation of the commentaries, side by side with the original and accompanied by rich introductory and explanatory material. This work, expected to be part of a new translation series launched by Oxford University Press, will make the texts readily available for study by early-China scholars, comparatists, political scientists, philosophers and historians.
“For 30 years, my scholarly mission has been to map the spiritual landscape of ancient Chinese Confucians and Daoists,” Queen said. “These early thinkers are compelling and intriguing, for they articulate deep, timeless and universal concerns, packaged in a way reflective of early Chinese culture. Through translation and explication, we can better understand the marvelous interplay between universal humanistic ideals and their cultural particularities.”
The NEH grant is part of the Scholarly Editions and Translations program, which provides grants to organizations to support collaborative teams who are editing, annotating and translating foundational humanities texts that are vital to learning and research but are currently inaccessible or are available only in inadequate editions or translations. It will support two years of research. The project is 49% federally funded, with additional funding provided by Connecticut College and the University of Edinburgh.
Queen has received numerous research grants since she joined the Connecticut College faculty in 1992, including support from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship Award.
At Conn, Queen has been instrumental in the successful launch of a key component of Connections, the College’s reinvention of the liberal arts—the Integrative Pathway. Modeled after the College’s centers for interdisciplinary scholarship, a Pathway encourages students to ask a central, animating question that they will explore from a variety of perspectives and through interdisciplinary collaboration.
Queen served for six years as the inaugural coordinator of the Global Capitalism Pathway, which teaches students to address the practical, moral and ethical dilemmas business leaders face in the modern economy by incorporating the humanities into business-related courses. In this role, she recruited faculty and students to the Pathway and gave presentations about the program to colleagues around the world, including at a conference sponsored by the prestigious Aspen Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“For the past six years, I’ve been very committed to building the Global Capitalism Pathway. I’m proud of that work, and now I’m grateful to be able to turn my focus to my scholarship again,” she said.
“I’m beyond thrilled to be working with Joachim Gentz to translate and explicate this extremely difficult commentary. For me, this project is an absolute joy 30 years in the making.”