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English Professor Completes Translation of Classical Chinese Tales

CANTON — After more than five years of work, St. Lawrence University Piskor Professor of English Sidney L. Sondergard has completed the sixth and final volume in a series of translated classical Chinese tales.

The short-story collection by Pu Songling (1640-1715), known as Strange Tales from Liaozhai, includes 494 different stories, many of which deal with the supernatural.

In the first complete English translation of Pu’s classical Chinese tales, readers will encounter supernatural creatures, natural disasters, magical aspects of Buddhist and Daoist spirituality, and a wide range of Chinese folklore. Sondergard has provided annotations to clarify unfamiliar references or cultural allusions, and he has written new introductory essays for each volume to give readers a variety of perspectives on Pu’s art and on the traditional and cultural contexts reflected in his uncanny tales.

“I copied out each one of the stories, to practice my Chinese calligraphy,” Sondergard explained. “As I learned more about Pu’s style, I began to appreciate just how unique and uniquely modest a writer he was. He didn’t get to see the publication of these stories during his lifetime. Yet they are now part of China’s treasured literary heritage, the narrative basis of countless books, films and television series.”

The translated volumes continue the Chinese tradition of including black-and-white illustrations for a number of the stories. Sondergard’s final volume includes illustrations by St. Lawrence alumni Christopher Peterson ’05 and Erik Russell ’08 and current student Emma DayBranch ’16. 

Sondergard joined St. Lawrence as a faculty member in 1986. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. A 1997 Frank P. Piskor Faculty Lecturer on campus, Sondergard is the author of Sharpening Her Pen: Strategies of Rhetorical Violence by Early Modern English Women Writers (2002), co-translator of the 2002 book The Cabala of Pegasus: An Annotated Translation of Giordano Bruno's Cabala del Cavallo Pegaseo, and co-author with Thomas L. Berger of An Index of Characters in Early Modern English Drama: Printed Plays, 1500-1660 (1998; 2006).