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The Stage Or The Page: Competing Conceptions Of The Play In The Wanli Period

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Chapter Summary

Prior to the Wanli period, Chinese drama was inseparable from the act of performance. This chapter outlines the terms and logic of the larger cultural debate that crucially contextualizes so many of the particularities of late Ming drama culture noted by contemporary scholars, but understood only as part of the practical business of staging plays and printing books, in isolation from the larger currents of the culture. It explores how the rise of drama publication engendered a moral crisis in the late Ming drama culture and in late Ming culture generally, and how partisans of the theater, fighting a losing battle, attempted to respond to this crisis by advocating the imitation of theatrical elements within the printed play. The difference between Wang Jide and Li Yu in their respective views of dramatic language is subtle. Wang Jide emphasizes the importance of simplicity but is not willing to sacrifice literary quality.

Keywords: Chinese drama; drama publication; late Ming drama culture; Li Yu; Wang Jide; Wanli period



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