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Talent, Identity, and Sociality in Early Qing Scholar-Beauty Novels

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This article rereads early Qing scholar-beauty novels from the perspective of a new interest in self-fashioning and resocialization right after the dynastic transition. It analyzes the particular ways in which these works reflected on the late Ming notion of qing (feelings) and moved to a new sense of self through an emphasis on innate cai (talent), and suggests that they employed romance to express a sense of community and male sociality based on talent, thereby striking a complex balance between the autonomy of elite communities and their accommodation with the new regime. The talented woman figure is both agent and product of the early Qing Han elite’s self-fashioning project in reaction to the Manchu conquest. Sexual relations are channelled into newly responsible ends. Historically, scholar-beauty novels developed a romantic discourse that helped construct personal identities, promote cultural autonomy, and eventually reintegrate literature into the new political order of the Qing dynasty.
Cet article propose une relecture des romans du début des Qing associant un lettré talentueux et une jeune beauté (caizi jiaren) à la lumière de l’intérêt nouveau pour la construction du soi et la resocialisation apparu immédiatement après la transition entre les Ming et les Qing. Est analysée la façon particulière dont ces ouvrages s’interrogent sur la notion de qing (sentiment) caractéristique de la fin des Ming et élaborent un nouveau sentiment du soi en mettant l’accent sur le talent inné (cai). Le recours à l’idylle, est-il suggéré, aide à faire passer la notion d’une communauté et d’une sociabilité masculine basées sur le talent, créant du même coup un équilibre complexe entre l’autonomie des communautés de l’élite et les compromis qui les lient au nouveau régime. Le personnage de la femme de talent est à la fois l’agent et le produit du projet de construction du soi des élites chinoises réagissant à la conquête mandchoue. Les relations amoureuses sont canalisées au service de buts nouveaux et responsables. Historiquement, le roman caizi jiaren a développé un discours sentimental facilitant la construction d’identités individuelles, la promotion de l’autonomie culturelle, et en fin de compte la réintégration de la littérature dans l’ordre politique nouveau de la dynastie des Qing.

Affiliations: 1: Renmin University of China


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