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I Am Nora, Hear Me Roar: The Rehabilitation of the Shrew in Modern Chinese Theater

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This article analyzes how the “new woman plays” written by the modern dramatist Ouyang Yuqian (1889-1962) in the 1920s weave together the old trope of the shrew with his constructions of the Chinese Nora promoted by May Fourth ideology. Of particular interest is how Ouyang reworked the traditional Pan Jinlian story in his eponymous play to rehabilitate the most notorious shrew from late imperial literature into a modern Nora. The article goes on to examine the performances of Nora by Lan Ping, later known as Jiang Qing (1914-91), in the 1930s. It analyzes the public reception of Lan Ping’s deployment of old and new female types when she played a forceful Nora on and off the stage. This study claims that cultural interest in the traditional shrew did not die with the collapse of imperial China. Rather, modern cultural figures redeemed formerly denounced shrew attributes and revived the shrew as a positive model for female empowerment in their constructions of the “new woman.”

Affiliations: 1: The University of the South


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