Women in Erpai: The gap between rhetoric and representation
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Macdonald, E. (2019). Women in Erpai: The gap between rhetoric and representation. NAN NU, 20 (2), 225-255. https://doi.org/10.1163/15685268-00202P03
The late Ming short story collections Pai’an jingqi and Erke pai’an jingqi (together known as Erpai), authored by Ling Mengchu (1580-1644), have been credited by a variety of scholars with expressing a relatively “progressive” attitude towards women. This assessment arises from a strong influence in the texts from the philosophies of the heterodox thinker Li Zhi (1527-1602), who argued the notion that women were not inherently less able than men. Scattered throughout the collections are discursive asides addressed at the audience, a number of which not only support this notion, but also develop it to assert the legitimacy of female sexual desire, and argue that widowed women should not be derided for remarrying. However, the strong stance taken in these discursive asides is not always reflected in the representations of women in the narratives themselves. Instead, strong female characters are desexed, while many of the other female characters are represented either as paragons of conventional virtue or as alien threats to the male subject. The gulf between the two discourses so created in Erpai highlights the limited influence of rhetoric on representation, and thus on the ideological construction of “woman”. Keywords: Erpai, Li Zhi, Ling Mengchu, desire, representation.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/15685268-00202P03
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/291393
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