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Reading And Writing The Courtesan

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Chapter Summary

This is the introductory chapter of this book Lost bodies : prostitution and masculinity in Chinese fiction, which engages the multi-layered literary icon of the courtesan, in order to flesh out a coherent narrative about prostitution, desire and sexuality in late imperial fictional sources, with a special focus on the late Qing period and constructions of masculinity. So, who is this courtesan? Terminology is the first challenge in the path to answering this question and the book accordingly begins with an exploration of the Chinese used in the original sources. Accordingly, the main gender angle in the book is on how masculinity is defined and created against the polysemic figure of the literary courtesan. Writing about courtesans cannot be read as immediately conveying the voices and the experiences of real women.

Keywords: Chinese fiction; late Qing period; literary courtesan

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