Yale Bulletin and Calendar

September 12, 2003|Volume 32, Number 2















Hans Frankel

Chinese literature scholar and
translator Hans Frankel dies

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 27, for renowned Chinese literature scholar Hans Frankel, who died on Aug. 26 after a long illness. He was 86 and lived in North Haven, Connecticut.

The service will begin at 2 p.m. in Dwight Chapel, 67 High St. A reception will follow in the second-floor common room of Luce Hall, 34 Hillhouse Ave.

Professor Frankel had taught in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale for 26 years. He was widely known for his scholarship on Chinese culture, literature (particularly poetry) and language. His publications ranged from translations of ancient Chinese poems to books on calligraphy, and his translation of the anonymous Chinese poem "Mulan" (5th or 6th century A.D.) was used as the official translation in the 1998 Disney animated film of the same name that tells the story of a Chinese girl who disguises herself as a man to serve in the army in her father's place.

"Professor Frankel was no doubt a pioneering figure in the field of Chinese literature in this country," says Kang-I Sun Chang, professor of Chinese literature and director of graduate studies in East Asian languages and literatures at Yale. "What makes his scholarship remarkable is that it combines pertinent Western literary theories (e.g. New Criticism) with solid sinological research. His sensitivity to literature was great, and he expressed this well. His book 'The Flowering Plum and the Palace Lady: Interpretation of Chinese Poetry' has become a canon in the field. I have continued to use the book in many of the courses I am teaching at Yale."

Among Professor Frankel's other publications are "Biographies of Meng Hao-jan," "Catalogue of Translations from the Chinese Dynastic Histories for the Period 220-960" and, most recently, "Two Chinese Treatises on Calligraphy," which he translated and annotated with his wife, Chang Ch'ung-ho Frankel. The couple also collaborated on the article "Poems about the Flowering Plum," which appeared in the 1985 Yale University Art Gallery exhibition catalog "Bones of Jade, Soul of Ice: The Flowering Plum in Chinese Art." Professor Frankel provided the translations and annotations for the work, while his wife contributed the calligraphy. Professor Frankel also published numerous other articles and book reviews.

Born in Berlin, Germany, in 1916, Hans Frankel emigrated with his family to California in 1935. He earned an undergraduate degree in classics from Stanford University in 1937, a master's degree in Spanish from the University of California at Berkeley in 1938 and continued there to obtain a Ph.D. in romance literature in 1942. During World War II, Professor Frankel worked for the Office of War Information and, later, the Office of Strategic Services. After the war, he taught western languages at National Peking University in China, where he met and married his wife.

Professor Frankel returned to Berkeley in 1949, working as both a research historian and lecturer in history. He became assistant professor of Chinese at Stanford University in 1959. He joined the Yale faculty in 1961 and taught at the University until his retirement in 1987. He also held visiting professorships at Hamburg, Bonn and Munich universities in Germany and at Columbia University.

At Yale, Professor Frankel was known for his generosity and collegiality. David Knechtges, a former colleague who is now professor of Chinese literature at the University of Washington, says of the Yale scholar, "When I began my teaching career at Yale in 1968, Hans Frankel unselfishly took the time from his busy schedule to advise me on all manner of matters, including scholarship, teaching and the intricate works of the Yale bureaucracy. He was a mentor long before the mentor system was formally institutionalized in American academic institutions. Even after I left Yale, Hans continued to counsel me from afar, and I have benefited over the years from his sage advice."

Noted historian of China Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History and a former student of Professor Frankel, noted, "It was Professor Frankel who first introduced me to classical Chinese poetry in the original 41 years ago. He was a splendid teacher, deeply immersed in Chinese traditional scholarship, but also with an astonishing grasp of Western literature."

The Yale scholar was honored with a number of awards during his career, including grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities and a Guggenheim Fellowship for study in Taiwan and Japan. He was a Fulbright Lecturer at Munich University in 1980.

In addition to his wife, Professor Frankel is survived by a daughter, Emma Frankel of Evanston, Illinois; a son, Ian H. H. Frankel of Madison, Connecticut; and three grandsons, Max and Will Metzler of Evanston and Ian H. H. Frankel Jr. of Madison.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Professor Frankel's memory may be made to Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, Attn.: Ann Fortunato, 209 Orange St., New Haven, CT 06510.


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