Michael Hunter

Associate Professor of East Asian Languages & Literatures, Yale University
Faculty Advisors: Willard Peterson and Martin Kern
Title:  Sayings of Confucius, Deselected
Abstract:  In this dissertation I set out to question the status of the Analects (Lunyu 論語, or The Selected Sayings) as the most authoritative source of Confucius's teachings and, in the process, to rethink Confucius's place in early Chinese intellectual history. Part one is a roadmap to the thousands of Confucius sayings preserved in the early corpus. It includes an in-depth discussion of Confucius quotation markers as well as a comprehensive list of texts that quote Confucius. In the course of the chapter, I argue that Confucius quotation before the advent of the Analects was a dynamic, creative practice in which authors treated Confucius sayings as venues for the re-performance of inherited wisdom. Part two presents the main argument for revising the dating of the Analects based on a reverse chronological survey of Confucius quotation practice in the early period. I conclude the chapter with the argument that the Analects was compiled between the 150s and 130s BCE, roughly three centuries later than the traditional account would have it. Part three brings the focus back to the Analects itself to read the text as a product of a Western Han political, intellectual, and textual milieu. The chapter develops as a series of nine case studies, each of which identifies a different compilation strategy employed by the Analects compilers. In a concluding chapter, I synthesize the arguments of the first three parts and discuss the implications of my findings for the study of early Chinese thought. In an epilogue, I also develop one concrete scenario for the creation of a Western Han Analects.