Early modern English translations of Chinese terms and texts reveal a great deal about what Englishmen did and did not comprehend concerning rule of law as we now understand it. A close analysis of these translations suggests that much of what we learned in our Western Civilization textbooks was more fantasy than fact. Such basic concepts as the distinction between public and private, or equality before the law, appear to have been incomprehensible to European and English writers before the mid-eighteenth century. This lecture explains the method of translingual analysis and reviews some of its more interesting results.
Martin Powers is Sally Michelson Davidson Professor of Chinese Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, and former Director of the Center for Chinese Studies. In 1993 his Art and Political Expression in Early China, Yale University Press, received the Levenson Prize for the best book in pre-twentieth century Chinese Studies. His Pattern and Person: Ornament, Society, and Self in Classical China, was published by Harvard University Press East Asian Series in 2006 and was awarded the Levenson Prize for 2008. In 2009 he was resident at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton writing a book on the role of "China" in the cultural politics of the English Enlightenment. Together with Dr. Katherine Tsiang, he is co-editing the Blackwell Companion to Chinese Art.
Martin Powers, Sally Michelson Davidson Professor of Chinese Arts and Cultures, U-M History of Art Department