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Narrating the passage of text: Reading multiple editions of the nineteenth-century novel Huayue Hen (traces of flowers and the moon)

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Chapter Summary

This chapter considers the disjunction between textual form and reading process which develops when traditional novels are edited to conform with late twentieth-century publishing practices. It draws on the work of recent Western textual critics as well as writings about traditional Chinese fiction. There are serious logical inconsistencies in the narrative evidence of textual transmission in Huayue hen, as well as other red-light works. Huayue hen has developed through many changes, but its presentation during the 1990s as the inward gaze of a failed literatus is both reductive and contradicts its editorial promotion as a good read. The history of Chinese novel texts from Shuihu zhuan through Honglou meng and beyond is one of multiple editions, with little evidence of the Western editorial tendency towards the stabilisation of variation or the promotion of a single, authorially intended text.

Keywords: Huayue Hen; textual transmission; traditional Chinese fiction



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