SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia

Alastair Ewan Macdonald

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Alastair Ewan Macdonald
Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia

PhD Student

Mr Alastair Ewan Macdonald
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Thesis title:
Reimagining the Vernacular Story: Textual Roles, Didacticism, and Entertainment in Erpai
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I come from the Highlands of Scotland and studied for an undergraduate MA(Hons) in Japanese at the University of Edinburgh. After graduation in 2009, I studied at the Mandarin Training Centre attached to Taiwan Normal University for one year, focusing on the novels Honglou meng 紅樓夢 (Dream of the Red Chamber) and Jin Ping Mei 金瓶梅 (The Plum in the Golden Vase). On returning to the UK, I began working as a freelance Chinese-English translator, and came to SOAS in 2012 to study for an MA in the theory and practice of Chinese-English translation. I continued to develop my interest in pre-modern vernacular fiction during this time, producing an annotated translation of a story from Pai’an jingqi 拍案惊奇 (Slapping the Table in Amazement) for my dissertation project. During the course of my PhD research I have undertaken fieldwork at National Taiwan University and Peking University, supported by NTU/SOAS and the Confucius Institute respectively. I also received a Doctoral Fellowship from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation to support the final stage of my PhD research.


My PhD research focuses on the two Pai’an jingqi 拍案惊奇 (Slapping the Table in Amazement) short story collections (together known as Erpai), written by Ling Mengchu 凌濛初 (1580-1644). It argues that Ling reimagines the genre through his use of his three major roles in the text (writer, simulated storyteller, and marginal commentator) to enhance the didactic effect and entertainment value of the stories. In this reimagining, the dual purpose of the stories- didacticism and entertainment- is elevated above all other concerns, including aspirations to serious literary respectability.