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Monsters and monstrosity in Liaozhai zhiyi

Dodd, Sarah Louise (2013) Monsters and monstrosity in Liaozhai zhiyi. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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In Liaozhai zhiyi, a collection of almost five hundred tales by Pu Songling (1640 - 1715), young scholars fall in love with beautiful fox spirits or meet ghosts in abandoned temples; corpses walk and men change into birds; hideous apparitions invade the home, bodies become unfamiliar, children are born to women long dead, and things are rarely what they first seem. Throughout the collection, the monstrous intrudes on the ordered spaces of the human world, bringing disorder but also the fulfilment of desire. The collection was written by a man who was trapped in the 'examination hell' of the Chinese civil service system, and in the years since his death has brought him the success he never achieved in his professional life, being read, critiqued, loved, and adapted by successive generations, until the work itself has become as monstrous as a hybrid as some of the creatures within its pages. The Liaozhai tales which have received the most critical and popular attention are the tales of enchantment and romance between human men and ghosts or fox spirits. Yet this focus on only certain types of tale has meant that the collection, which is made up of patchwork of different traditions and influences, is rarely considered as a whole. This thesis attempts to redress the balance by arguing that the collection is a monstrous hybrid, made out of fragments of folklore, myth, previous stories and pure invention, using different literary traditions and created by the assumed persona of an author -the Historian of the Strange -who is himself as hybrid as some of the creatures in his tales. Because of this textual hybridity, combined with the myriad anomalous figures within its pages, the thesis takes the representation of monstrosity as central to the collection, using Jeffrey Jerome Cohen's 'Monster Culture' as a starting point. His influential work, first published in 1996, argues that the monster is a 'cultural body', containing the fears, anxieties and desires of the culture in which it is born. I hope that the thematic focus on the monster will allow the collection to be approached as an entity, considering the different types of tale, and the different figures within them, and how they work together or against each other. I argue that the examination of the monster as a 'cultural body' will add to the understanding of Liaozhai within the context of early Qing society and culture, in the way it can be seen as paradoxically both subverting and supporting social norms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-753-7
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Languages Cultures and Societies (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.605403
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2014 10:47
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2016 14:41
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6445

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