Historicizing Spectacle–presentation at 2017 ATHE Las Vegas

Panel: “Embodied Spectacles: Poses, Costumes, and Voices in Asian Theater”

Through the bodily dimension, this panel explores the relation between theatrical spectacles and some significant social-political, gender, and linguistic issues in pre-modern and modern Asia.

8/4/2017 7:30-9:00 PM

Image for Guojun's Talk.jpg

My paper: “Historicizing Spectacle: Clothing and Costuming in Seventeenth-century Chinese Drama”

Abstract: Spectacle has generally been defined as the public display of things, which is based on a spatial relationship of viewing and being viewed. This paper challenges the spatial understanding of spectacle by discussing the historical dimension of the sartorial landscape in the seventeenth-century China. During the Manchu invasion into central China around the mid-seventeenth century, the Manchu rulers forced male Han Chinese to shave their heads and change into Manchu clothing. Meanwhile, they allowed the use of Han clothing to continue in drama performances. The Manchu hair and dress regulations produced a sartorial landscape divided by the stage: off stage, Manchu clothing prevailed; on stage, costumes in the Han style remained and Manchu clothing became a taboo. In addition to the stage, drama scripts and visual materials further complicated the sartorial landscape by introducing different modes to represent clothing. Consequently, clothing and costuming in the seventeenth-century China together created a sartorial spectacle which mediated the negotiations between ethnicities, genders, and political powers. Through examining a body of theatrical materials (scripts, illustrations, performance records) in the seventeenth-century China, this paper argues that theatrical the spectacle is inherently historical: it is a “historical effect” rather than the mise-en-scène of a play.