The Worlds of Honglou meng ( Dream of the Red Chamber): Traditional Chinese Novel & Literary Culture

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EALC 27501/37501
N. Feng
Course Description: 

Written by Cao Xueqin 曹雪芹 (?-1763), Honglou meng (Dream of the Red Chambers紅樓夢) has been regarded as the greatest masterpiece of Chinese prose fiction. The novel not only displays the unprecedented usage of realistic language in portraying the quotidian life, but also shows intricate literary skills in narrative and lyricism. This class investigates the internal and external worlds of Honglou meng, and reflects on the ethics and aesthetics of novel in late imperial China. We will explore, on the one hand, literary choices that made the novel sophisticated, such as the narrative strategies, the complexity in characterization, and the high degree of intertextuality which shows the creative use of other literary genres (poetry, drama, riddle). On the other hand, reading alongside recent scholarship on material culture and gender studies, we examine the interactive relations between the novel and the fashion of exquisite domestic life in the late imperial society and answer these questions. In what ways did the fashion shape the novel text, and how such fashion affects the production and reception of the novel and influences the ways of reading?


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