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9780674125728: The Chinese Virago: A Literary Theme (HARVARD-YENCHING INSTITUTE MONOGRAPH SERIES)
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Drawing from literary, historical, dramatic, and anecdotal sources, Yenna Wu conducts a rich exploration of an unusually prominent theme in premodern Chinese prose fiction and drama: that of jealous and belligerent wives, or viragos, who dominate their husbands and abuse other women. Focusing on Chinese literary works from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, she presents many colorful perspectives on this type of aggression, reviewing early literary and historical examples of the phenomenon.

Wu argues that although the various portraits of the virago often reveal the writers' insecurities about strong-willed women in general, the authors also satirize the kind of man whose behavioral patterns have been catalysts for female aggression. She shows that various elements of these portraits constitute a subversive form of parody that casts a revealing light on the patriarchal hierarchy of premodern China.

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About the Author:

Yenna Wu is Assistant Professor of Chinese at the University of California, Riverside.


The Chinese Virago is an encyclopedic compendium of sources that describe jealous wives (and inadvertently, their henpecked husbands). Wu states that the figure of the virago has an importance in the Chinese cultural tradition unmatched in the West, speculating that the polygamous family system accounts for the popularity of shrew stories in China. The imposing array of sources that she has unearthed gives credence to this statement...The great contribution of this book is its synthesis of a truly impressive array of sources. Scholars of any period and any genre will find Wu's book useful, for she has tracked down a mind-boggling polyphony of texts...The Chinese Virago is ground-breaking work...[and] will provide a valuable source of reference for scholars of gender and of Chinese literature. By introducing readers to new texts and urging then to read familiar ones in unfamiliar ways, The Chinese Virago contributes to the present dynamics of research in gender studies and late-imperial Chinese literature.
--Sophie Volpp (Journal of Asian Studies)

Wu carefully examines the literary representations of the Chinese virago--the jealous, shrewish, fierce wife--and her counterpart, the husband who fears her. Although sporadic studies have been done on jealous wives and henpecked husbands, this is the first study devoted soley to the historical and topical study of this theme up to the Qing Dynasty (ended 1911). (Choice)

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Yenna Wu
Published by Harvard University Asia Center (1995)
ISBN 10: 067412572X ISBN 13: 9780674125728
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
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(Portland, ME, U.S.A.)

Book Description Harvard University Asia Center, 1995. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M067412572X

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