Article

Modern Chinese Drama

Edward M. Gunn

in Chinese Studies

ISBN: 9780199920082
Published online April 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0011
Modern Chinese Drama

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Since the turn of the 20th century, modern Chinese drama and theater have taken their inspirations from a wide range of sources and contributed to a broad array of interests. So, too, the scholarship on the theater and dramatic literature draws from, and contributes to, a number of fields, not only literature, theater, and performance studies but also anthropology, film and media studies, history, musicology, and political science. A selection of these various types of studies is included in this bibliography. The influences of a modern world on 20th-century China provoked substantial innovations in the forms of music theater already embedded in Chinese social life for centuries. Chinese scholars have for the most part maintained a major distinction between opera (xiqu 戏曲) as a group of forms that they see as a perpetuation of the heritage of the historic past and music theater (geju 歌剧) that typically designates modern musicals inspired by forms of Western opera. In this bibliography, the term “music theater” is used for all forms of musicals while explicitly noting the subset of xiqu as “opera.” In addition to music theater, the modern world inspired new forms of drama, including what became known as the spoken drama (huaju 话剧) of the Western stage. Scholarship has followed both the response of older forms of theater, whether conservative or innovative, and the development of new forms. Although the bulk of scholarship has focused on the achievements and fortunes of spoken drama, a growing body of research on music theater has appeared. Although there is relatively little research on the responses of spoken drama and music theater to each other, a number of studies contribute to this well-known but little studied area. Because so many writers and theater artists shared with political leaders a vision of the theater as a means to create a new culture and persuade large populations of their causes, the stage has been intimately involved with the tumultuous fortunes of the Chinese state. Both the individual works and the history of Chinese drama as a whole have been decisively marked by the policies of its governments. At the same time, policies cannot totally define creativity. Much scholarship has stressed dramatic texts and theater performances not only as constructions of identities beyond explicit policies but also as interventions in, or complications of, these policies and identities. The discourses of social class, gender, national, and postcolonial identities have figured prominently in recent scholarship. Most recently the geographic spread and cultural complexities of Chinese theater have engaged scholars. A significant body of dramatic literature and theater in Chinese languages has been evident throughout the periphery of China—from Hong Kong to Taiwan to Singapore—and across the Pacific. The concept of intercultural theater, which adapts and freely reworks sources from other societies into local productions, is not new, but it gained in significance as more of Chinese society has moved into closer cultural contact with other societies. Especially in recent years, Chinese-language scholarship has provided an impressive set of sources on its wide array of theater and dramatic literature. A representative selection of this scholarship is included in this bibliography, following the English-language sources in each section.

Article.  22036 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Studies ; Asian History ; East Asian Philosophy ; East Asian Religions

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