The Image of the Author in Qing Drama (Yale U)

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Problematizing the Paratextual Space in Traditional Chinese Drama Prints

This paper considers the relationship between playwrights and their theatrical works through examining a group of drama prints produced in the Qing dynasty. Despite the longstanding tradition of portraiture in traditional China, fictions and dramas seldom included images of the authors. However, starting from the early Qing period, some drama prints included images of the authors in the form of portraits and figures in illustrations. That phenomenon was part of a larger trend in which playwrights and their scholarly friends increasingly took up the paratextual space for self-representation or communal conversation. The paper argues for an increasing authorial presence in traditional Chinese drama, a development enabled by changes in play production and shifting understandings of the dramatic genre.