How to Insult Someone in Early Medieval China

Certain language-based (discursive) interactions within society seem to remark upon the nature of the social itself. Praise is one such discursive act; insults are another. To be sure, praise and insult may be thought of as opposing actions, which is another way of saying that insult is dispraise. Yet the act of insult performs emotional and social work that go beyond what we might consider dispraise (just as the act of praise does work that goes beyond the act of insult). This paper will examine the following within the context of the Shishuo xinyu (the most important early medieval Chinese anecdote collection): the meaning and experience of insult, how insults are performed (the conditions of their success), the relationship between insult and praise, and how the articulation of insult is related to the anecdotal form.

Time: 3:30-5:00 pm, April 21 (Friday)

Location: CMU120, UW campus