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Introduction

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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter presents a study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Chinese who infused their living, and writing, with theatricals. The late Ming and early Qing dynasties, or early modern China, was a period of great affluence and cultural florescence, but also of tremendous political, social, and intellectual insecurity. The use of theater and theatrical vocabulary as a source for fictional structuring and critical vocabulary demands the scholarly attention. This work is the first attempt to view the cultural fascination with and imagination of theater as an important historical and literary context for the full-length novel in the late Ming and early Qing. There are two primary elements that constitute theatricality in early modern texts and images. First, the texts or images include playacting, masquerades, metamorphoses, and other theatrical events; second, the texts or images underscore reflexively the perceptual dynamics of the viewer/ viewed relationship.

Keywords: China; theater

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