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.
Phillip B. Williams is a poet who “sings for the vanished, for the haunted, for the tortured, for the lost, for the place on the horizon where the little boat of the human body disappears in a wingdom of unending grace” (The Best American Poetry). Williams is the author of the chapbooks Bruised Gospels and Burn, as well as the collection Thief in the Interior, winner of a number of awards, including the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a 2017 Lambda Literary Award. Williams is a Cave Canem graduate and the poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award and teaches at Bennington College.
This reading is free and open to the public and will be followed by refreshments.