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Tropes Of Theater In Zhishang Chuntai And Wusheng XI

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Chapter Summary

This chapter compares 'didactic theater' with 'playful theatricals' through a study of seventeenth-century fiction collections, Zhishang chuntai and Wusheng xi. They have similar titles and reference theater as a source for their fictional structuring and critical vocabulary. The characters and themes in Zhishang chuntai are built upon moral absolutes and a clear line of demarcation between theater and real life that produces characters with unambiguous moral identities. Despite the reference to theater in the title of Zhishang chuntai, then, the author's stories are a theatrical and frequently antitheatrical. Identity transformation, masquerade, and playacting are carefully avoided in Zhishang chuntai because they suggest the kind of moral relativity that threatens the creation of an articulate moral identity. In Wusheng xi, Li Yu uses the trope of theater to evoke 'playful theatricals' that aestheticize the idea of 'play' and deny moral fixities by celebrating the flexibility of different roles, identities, and persons.

Keywords: didactic theater; playful theatricals; wusheng Xi; zhishang Chuntai



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