Inflecting Gender: Zhan Kai/Siqi Zhai's 'New Novels' and Courtesan Sketches



This essay introduces Zhan Kai/Siqi Zhai, a little known writer of the late Qing. It focuses on his two "new novels" (Zhongguo xin nühao and Nüzi quan, both of 1907) which it presents in the context of his sketches of courtesans, a genre with which he was more at home. The two genres configure gender in different ways. Whether it be the intended reader, central characters, or narrator, the gender composition shifts when Zhan moves to his new style. I hypothesize that these changes stem from his attempts to reach gentlewomen, an audience newly drawn to novels at that time.

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