Profile picture of Stephen Durrant

Stephen Durrant

Professor Emeritus, Chinese Literature
Asian Studies, East Asian Languages
Phone: 541-346-4041
Office: 308 Friendly Hall


I was trained at the University of Washington in early Chinese grammar and philology under the direction of Paul Serruys and Jerry Norman. I also did considerable work on Manchu language as a graduate student and became particularly interested in Manchu translations of Chinese texts. My subsequent scholarship concerned both early Chinese texts, primarily Mo zi and Shi ji, and Manchu texts, the latter interest leading to my first book, The Tale of the Nisan Shamaness: A Manchu Folk Epic (Seattle: University of Washington, 1978). In recent years my interests have shifted more and more toward Chinese narrative of the late Zhou and Han periods and its links to the historiographic tradition. My research in this field has centered upon the historian Sima Qian (145?-86?) and his early textual antecedents, particulary Zuo zhuan (ca 320). I have also become increasingly fascinated with the similarities and differences between the early Chinese narratological tradition and the roughly contemporary narrative traditions in Hebrew and Greek, although I confess to being very much an amateur in the Western half of such comparative scholarship. This latter comparative interest is reflected in my most recent book (listed below), a joint scholarly project undertaken with a specialist in Greek literature.

I currently have two on-going research projects. The first is a translation of Zuo zhuan, a team project under contract with Yale University Press, and the second is a book on certain “curious” issues surrounding the formation of the Confucian canon.

Most of my teaching is in the field of early Chinese literature. I regularly teach the introductory survey, Chinese 305, and the graduate course on issues in early Chinese literature (423/523). I also occasionally teach seminars on early Chinese narrative, on the formation of the Confucian canon, and on such texts as Shi ji and Zuo zhuan. I remain deeply committed to the belief that scholarship on early China must be founded upon a precise and detailed mastery of the classical Chinese language.


“Ssu-ma Ch’ien’s Portrayal of the First Ch’in Emperor,” in Frederick brandauer and Chun-chieh Huang, eds., Imperial Rulership and Cultural Change in Traditional China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994), pp. 28-50.
The Cloudy Mirror: Tension and Conflict in the Writings of Sima Qian (Albany: State University of New York, 1995).
The Siren and the Sage: Knowledge and Wisdom in Ancient Greece and China, with Steven Shankman (London and New York: Cassell, 2000).