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About the talk:
Anecdotes, stories, and plays about authenticity and forgery proliferate during the seventeenth century. What do they tell us about late Ming aesthetic and literary sensibility and their continuation or transformation in the early Qing? Do forgeries, copies, and imitations lead to more general anxieties about the “fakeness” of people, social practices, or conventional morality? How does one establish the authority to distinguish the real from the counterfeit? What exactly is the aura of “the real thing”? What are the distinctions separating the forger from the copier or the authorized delegate? Do economic calculations compromise or justify aesthetic judgment? How do aesthetic judgment and moral judgment intersect and diverge in accounts that glorify the connoisseur’s discernment or decry his perfidy and rapacity? My sources for this talk include classical tales, anecdotes from biji (miscellanies), and two plays: Li Yù’s (ca. 1610-after 1667) An Offering of Snow (Yi peng xue, ca. early 1640s), whose plot develops around a priceless jade cup and its counterfeit, and Li Yu’s (1611-1680) Ideal Matches (Yi zhong yuan, 1650s), which turns forgeries into the medium for self-expression and romance.
About the speaker:
Wai-yee Li is currently a Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard University. She has written on early China and Ming-Qing literature. Her recent publications include Women and National Trauma in Late Imperial Chinese Literature (2014) and an annotated translation of Zuozhuan (2016), which she did in collaboration with Stephen Durrant and David Schaberg.