Rereading the Stone: Desire and the Making of Fiction in Dream of the Red Chamber

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Princeton University Press, Jul 16, 2001 - Literary Criticism - 321 pages
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The eighteenth-century Hongloumeng, known in English as Dream of the Red Chamber or The Story of the Stone, is generally considered to be the greatest of Chinese novels--one that masterfully blends realism and romance, psychological motivation and fate, daily life and mythical occurrences, as it narrates the decline of a powerful Chinese family. In this path-breaking study, Anthony Yu goes beyond the customary view of Hongloumeng as a vivid reflection of late imperial Chinese culture by examining the novel as a story about fictive representation. Through a maze of literary devices, the novel challenges the authority of history as well as referential biases in reading. At the heart of Hongloumeng, Yu argues, is the narration of desire. Desire appears in this tale as the defining trait and problem of human beings and at the same time shapes the novel's literary invention and effect. According to Yu, this focalizing treatment of desire may well be Hongloumeng's most distinctive accomplishment.


Through close readings of selected episodes, Yu analyzes principal motifs of the narrative, such as dream, mirror, literature, religious enlightenment, and rhetorical reflexivity in relation to fictive representation. He contextualizes his discussions with a comprehensive genealogy of qing--desire, disposition, sentiment, feeling--a concept of fundamental importance in historical Chinese culture, and shows how the text ingeniously exploits its multiple meanings. Spanning a wide range of comparative literary sources, Yu creates a new conceptual framework in which to reevaluate this masterpiece.

 

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Contents

Reading
3
Reading as History
20
Reading History Reading Fiction
26
Desire
53
The Definition of Qing
56
The Dialectics of Nature and Disposition
66
Ritual and the Rule of Desire
74
Pathocentrism and the Legitimation of Desire
82
Censorship and the Critics
186
The Fiction of Desire
194
The Fate of Reading
210
Tragedy
219
The Orphaned Contender
226
The Thwarted Communion
234
Between Delusion and Hope
246
Conclusion
256

Stone
110
The Gate of Emptiness
121
The Dream and the Mirror
137
The Fiction of Stone
151
Literature
172
Glossary
269
Bibliography
277
Index
313
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About the author (2001)

Anthony C. Yu is the Carl Darling Buck Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, where he teaches in the Divinity School, in the departments of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, English, and Comparative Literature, and serves on the Committee on Social Thought. He is best known for his complete, annotated translation of The Journey to the West.

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