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Sound, Space and Moral Soundscapes in Ruyijun zhuan and Chipozi zhuan

In: NAN NÜ
Author:
Mark Stevenson Victoria University;, Email: mark.stevenson@vu.edu.au

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Abstract

This paper employs methods from phenomenology, anthropology and literary criticism to theorise the deployment of sound in two early works of erotic fiction from sixteenth-century China: Ruyijun zhuan ([The tale of ] The Lord of Perfect Satisfaction) and Chipozi zhuan (A tale of an infatuated woman). After assessing the significance of the two novels in relation to problems of gender ideology in the period, as well as the treatment of sound, noisiness and gender in two Tang dynasty works, the paper demonstrates how almost all occurrences of non-verbal or involuntary sounds in the novels are attached to the moral positioning of their women protagonists in relation to gender norms. While not performing a full content analysis of the novels' soundscapes, moral or otherwise, a select number of examples are used to illustrate how a focus on sound, as a sign of both external moral threat and the inner person, adds to our understanding of erotic fiction from the late Ming (1520-1644). While they employ aurality in radically different ways, the two novels show how aural events share a similar function in governing women's sexuality.

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