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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/17472

Title: The Ghost of Liaozhai: Pu Songling's Ghostlore and Its History of Reception
Authors: Luo, Hui
Advisor: Sanders, Graham
Department: East Asian Studies
Keywords: Chinese literature
Ghost tale
Issue Date: 16-Jul-2009
Abstract: This dissertation looks beyond the prevailing view of Pu Songling’s (1640-1715) Liaozhai zhiyi as an undisputed classic of Chinese literature, positing that much of the work’s cultural relevance and popular appeal derives from its status as “minor discourse” rooted in the tradition of the ghost tale. The first half of the dissertation examines the ghosts depicted within Liaozhai, reconnecting their tamed and feminized images with their dark and anarchic origins. The second half studies the reception of Liaozhai, chronicling the book’s cultural ascension from xiaoshuo, in the original sense of a minor form of discourse fraught with generic and ideological tensions, to a major work of fiction (xiaoshuo in its modern sense). However, the book’s canonical status remains unsettled, haunted by its heterogeneous literary and cultural roots. The Introduction reviews current scholarship on Liaozhai, justifying the need to further investigate the relationship between popular perceptions of Liaozhai and the Chinese notion of ghosts. Chapter One delineates Pu Songling’s position in late imperial ghost discourse and examines how the ghost tale reflects his ambivalence toward being a Confucian literatus. Chapter Two reads Pu Songling’s “The Painted Skin” in conjunction with its literary antecedents, demonstrating that Pu’s uses of both zhiguai and chuanqi modes are essential for the exploration of the ghost’s critical and creative potential. Chapter Three takes up the issues of genre, canon and ideology in the “remaking” of the book by Qing dynasty critics, publishers and commentators, a process in which Liaozhai gains prestige but Liaozhai ghosts become aestheticized into objects of connoisseurship. Chapter Four looks at the ruptures in modern ghost discourse that paradoxically create new vantage points from which Liaozhai regains its “minor” status, most notably in Hong Kong ghost films. The Conclusion revisits “The Painted Skin,” a Liaozhai story that exemplifies the complex cultural ramifications of the ghost. The dissertation combines a study of Liaozhai’s textual formation and its subsequent history of reception with a dialogic inquiry into the ghost, which occupies a highly contested field of cultural discourse, functioning variously as a psychological projection, a token of belief, a literary motif and an aesthetic construction.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/17472
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of East Asian Studies - Doctoral theses

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