Allison Bernard of Columbia University will give a talk titled "This Bystander with Cold, Clear Eyes: Meta-Theater in The Peach Blossom Fan."
Summary by Allison Bernard: This talk addresses the uses of meta-theater in The Peach Blossom Fan (Taohua shan), a historical drama completed in 1699 by the Chinese playwright Kong Shangren. I argue that meta-theater—how the play calls attention to itself as a work of theater—becomes a way for The Peach Blossom Fan to critique the historical and dramatic contexts out of which it arises. Historically, the play uses meta-theatrical techniques to evaluate the problems of China’s turbulent 17th century, which, for many period writers, felt unmoored and even a bit surreal. Dramatically, the play uses meta-theater to question and complicate standard generic conventions, such as the classification of characters by “role-type” and the expected happy ending. In this talk, I focus on one case study that unites these historical and dramatic aspects of The Peach Blossom Fan’s meta-theatrical method: the stage character of Ruan Dacheng, a 17th-century politician who was also a popular playwright.