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Wang Guowei and the Establishment of Chinese Drama in the Modern Canon of Classical Literature

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This essay examines the process by which Wang Guowei placed Chinese dramatic history into the modern Chinese literary canon. It explores how Wang formed his ideas on literature, drawing on Western aesthetics to explain, through the notions of leisure and play, the impetus for art creation, and on the Chinese notions of the genesis of literature to explain the psychology of literary creation. In order to establish the literary value of Chinese drama, Wang applied these ideas to the first playwrights of the Yuan dynasty, arguing that theirs was a literature created under the right aesthetic and creative circumstances, and that it embodied the value of "naturalness" which he considered a universal standard for good literature. By producing a scholarly critical history of the origins and nature of Chinese drama, Wang placed drama on a par with other literary genres of past dynasties, thus giving it a renewed status and creating at the same time a new discipline of research. Drama had now become an established literary genre. Cet article s'intéresse à la façon dont Wang Guowei a intégré l'histoire du théâtre au canon littéraire chinois moderne. L'auteur étudie comment Wang élabora sa vision de la littérature en s'inspirant de l'esthétique occidentale pour expliquer l'impulsion créatrice en art à l'aide des notions de loisir et de jeu, et des notions chinoises sur la genèse de la littérature pour expliquer la psychologie de la création littéraire. Soucieux de fonder la valeur littéraire du théâtre chinois, Wang appliqua ces idées aux premiers dramaturges de l'époque Yuan, affirmant qu'il s'agissait là d'une littérature élaborée suivant les normes esthétiques et créatrices appropriées et incarnant la valeur de "naturel" qui était à ses yeux l'étalon universel de la qualité littéraire. En composant une histoire critique et savante des origines et de la nature du théâtre chinois, Wang plaçait ce dernier sur le même plan que les autres genres littéraires, nés sous les dynasties précédentes. Par là même il lui conférait un statut nouveau, créant du même coup une nouvelle discipline de recherche. Le théâtre était devenu un genre littéraire établi.

Affiliations: 1: University of Bristol


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