Confucius and America: The Moral Constitution of Statecraft
Confucius and America: The Moral Constitution of Statecraft

Date : 14.9.2017 (Thursday)
Time : 16:00-17:30
Venue : R6143, 6/F, Amenities Building, City University of Hong Kong



In this paper, I examine the important role which the Chinese philosopher and public intellectual Confucius has played for the formation of the political and poetic culture in the United States. I begin with the American poet Ezra Pound’s encounter with the Chinese language and his recovery of Confucian ideas which had also influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States of America in the Early Republic. Pound’s poetic rendition of Confucius’ importance for the moral constitution of American statecraft in the eighteenth century is both a characteristic feature of modern poetry’s intertextual evocation of classical sources and the recognition of intercultural relations between the long history of the Chinese tradition and the young American nation. Finally, I will use Pound’s linkage of the two cultures and his poetic account of a moral basis of political power to look at the contemporary scene of the interrelation of Chinese and American cultures and the establishment of Confucius Institutes in the twenty-first century.


Alfred Hornung is Research Professor and Director of the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. He held guest professorships at various European, American, Canadian, and Chinese universities. He was a fellow at Harvard, Yale, the National Humanities Center in North Carolina, and is a member of the Center for Cross-cultural studies at Peking University. His publications are in the field of modernism, postmodernism, transcultural life writing, and transnational studies. From 1991-2002 he was the general editor of the journal Amerikastudien / American Studies. He is an editor of the American Studies Monograph Series, the Journal of Transnational American Studies and on the editorial board of several journals, including Atlantic Studies, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies and Contemporary Foreign Literature (Nanjing). He served as President of MESEA (the Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas, 2000-2004), as President of the German Association for American Studies (2002-2005), as a member of the International Committee of the ASA. From 2008 to 2016 he was an elected member of the review board for European and North American literature of the German Research Foundation. In 2013 he received the Carl Bode-Norman Holmes Pearson Prize of the American Studies Association in Washington for outstanding contributions to American Studies. In 2014 he was elected a member of Academia Europaea: The Academy of Europe for Letters, the Humanities and Natural Sciences (London). He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for World Literature (Harvard). Among his latest publications are a biography of Jack London (2016), Obama and Transnational American Studies (2016), and the Chinese translation of Ecology and Life Writing. Transl. Lin Jiang [生態學與生命寫作] (Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 2016).


Enquiry: Department of Chinese and History, City University of Hong Kong
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Last updated: 08 September 2017