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  • Patrick Dewes Hanan1927–2014

On april 26, 2014, Patrick Hanan, passed away. Pat was the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Chinese Literature, a co-editor of the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, and, from 1987 to 1995, the Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. Educated in New Zealand and later at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Pat first taught at SOAS and then at Stanford University before coming to Harvard University in 1968. After thirty years of service, he retired in 1998. During his tenure as Director of the HYI, Pat helped the Institute find a new course in response to an East Asia that had been radically transformed from the conditions under which the Institute was first founded, and he continued its tradition of support for the humanities. He initiated the HYI’s Visiting Fellows program, providing graduate students the opportunity to study at Harvard University at a time when such opportunities were not easily available; and he extended the HYI’s publication program to include monographs in Chinese, published through the Joint Publishing Company.

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Pat served with distinction at Harvard University as chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and in the wide range of offices that are the burden of self-governing institutions. [End Page 203] He taught generations of students, who have gone on to populate the field with an excellence that pays tribute to their teacher. Yet throughout this service to the institutions of the university and to others, his enthusiasm for his scholarship never waned.

A superlative scholar, Pat is best known for his pioneering study of the premodern Chinese short story, The Chinese Vernacular Story (1981), and The Invention of Li Yu (1988), winner of the Joseph Levenson Prize of the Association for Asian Studies. The latter study was followed by translations of Li Yu’s story collections and his novel, The Carnal Prayer Mat (1990). A flamboyant and entrepreneurial seventeenth-century Chinese writer found his perfect English voice in Pat’s reserved and witty prose; this writer, previously recognized as great, but largely unread, was transformed by Pat into one of the most widely read authors in premodern Chinese fiction.

Pat left a legacy of affection as deep and large as his scholarly legacy. His grace, unfailing kindness, and good humor endure in the memories of his colleagues and his many students. The Chinese had faith that the voices of the dead live on in the way they wrote; when we open Pat’s books, we still hear him. [End Page 204]



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