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Competing Discourses

Competing Discourses

Orthodoxy, Authenticity, and Engendered Meanings in Late Imperial Chinese Fiction

Maram Epstein

ISBN 9780674005129

Publication date: 06/01/2001

In the traditional Chinese symbolic vocabulary, the construction of gender was never far from debates about ritual propriety, desire, and even cosmic harmony. Competing Discourses maps the aesthetic and semantic meanings associated with gender in the Ming-Qing vernacular novel through close readings of five long narratives: Marriage Bonds to Awaken the World, Dream of the Red Chamber, A Country Codger's Words of Exposure, Flowers in the Mirror, and A Tale of Heroic Lovers.

Epstein argues that the authors of these novels manipulated gendered terms to achieve structural coherence. These patterns are, however, frequently at odds with other gendered structures in the texts, and authors exploited these conflicts to discuss the problem of orthodox behavior versus the cult of feeling.


  • Maram Epstein is Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Oregon.

Book Details

  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center

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