Beyond Moral Critique: Broadening Concepts of Humor in Song, Yuan, and Ming
3: Humour in the Huaben Novellas: The Guzhang juechen in Context
Friday, March 25, 2022
9:30am – 11:00am EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Università del Salento, Taiwan
This paper presents a study of GuzhangJuechen鼓掌絕塵 (Clap your hands and get rid of the worldly moss, 1631, GZJC), a forty-chapter collection of four middle-length stories. Despite enjoying some popularity at the time, its place in the history of Chinese narrative has so far been neglected. The paper begins by analyzing Chapter XXVI, dedicated almost entirely to Eunuch/Tyrant Wei Zhongxian 魏忠賢. Although he appears as a mostly one-dimensional character, Wei’s megalomania constitutes the paramount example of parody and satire in GZJC. This study then focusses on humor on the micro-level, and analyzes exaggerations, double entendres, talking names (for example maidservant Chougu 醜姑, theuglyone), and folly-and-consequence moments which dominate the collection, especially its third story. The last part is dedicated to humor on a macro-level, based on the minimal critical literature existing on the text, as well as on more general studies on humor. In this part contrasts are exposed and studied between narrating voices, between registers, and even between sections of the same text, in order to achieve different humorous results. The conclusion consists in a consideration of how humor interacts with narrative texts, and with how huaben writers had to explore new forms when the genre was past its heyday.