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290 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 who want to read die Chinese text. It is to be hoped that more works ofsuch quality wül be translated into English. I recommend this book to general readers who are interested in Chinese literature and to students and scholars. Laifong Leung University ofAlberta LaifongLeung is an associateprofessor in the Department ofEastAsian Studies specializing in classical Chinesepoetry and contemporary Chinese literature. ri Judith Zeitiin. Historian ofthe Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993. xiii, 332 pp. Hardcover $39-50, isbn 0-8047-2085-1. This fascinating study of Pu Songling's (1640-1715) Liaozhai zhiyi (Liaozhai's record ofthe strange) gives us fhe information we need to understand how Liaozhai fits into the enormous changes ofthe seventeenth century: not only the dynastic transition from Ming to Qing, but also the beginnings of a sea change between two modes offhought, from correlative and universalizing to particularistic and skeptical . Liaozhai, as Zeitiin presents it to us, is just the sort ofwork we might expect from the end offhat complex century. Zeitiin places Liaozhai in cultural discourses germane to these seventeenthcentury shifts: the very category of the strange or anomalous, the late Ming privileging ofobsession as a sign ofmoral integrity, and die transgression ofgender boundaries as a way to interrogate power and identity. Her fifth and longest chapter is on the nature ofdreams in Liaozhai, since it is in dreams that boundaries are fhe most fluid. It is this fluidity ofboundaries fhat Zeidin sees as key to the way Pu Songling "renewed the cultural category ofthe strange" to create a work that would demand interpretation from every generation ofreaders to foUow. Zeitiin's study rests on a foundation ofwork by Chinese and Western scholars , most notably Zhang Youhe's comprehensive edition ofLiaozhai, which aUows her to trace the evolution of Liaozhai commentary, and AUan Barr's painstaking reconstruction offhe textual transmission and insightful suggestions on fhe origiy mversity naj Q1^3nJ231I0n 0fme text Zeitiin's and Barr's work complement each other: Barr shows us Pu Songling's rootedness in his world and community, his psychological acuity, and penchant for satire, but we might not guess from his work all ofHawai'i Press Reviews 291 the liminality and shifting ofboundaries fhat Zeitiin shows to be so important in Liaozhai. Zeidin's study is divided into two parts. In part 1, she traces the "interpretive history" of Liaozhai from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, and then examines Pu Songhng's own self-presentation in his celebrated preface. The evolution ofcommentary on Liaozhai enriches what we know ofthe intellectual evolution from the Ming to the Qing. Pu Songling's contemporaries were concerned with die category of strangeness or anomaly itself. Early eighteenth-century critics , by contrast, turned dieir attention from the stories to the author, reinterpreting (and re-legitimizing) the work as Pu's self-expression. In the late eighteenth century and on into the nineteenfh century, however, the focus ofinterpretation shifted again, to questions ofstyle and technique. The overaU evolution was from universalizing to particularistic, as we might expect, but we see how nonlinear this evolution was, since it was the latest wave ofcritics who made the most use of late Ming / early Qing Uterary-critical methods. Jin Shengtan (1610-1661), the seminal and enthusiastic critic ofYuan and Ming fiction and drama, inspired this "third wave" of critics, and while Jin's own methods privileged the notion ofwriting as self-expression, his attention to even the smaUest details ofliterary technique would provide the inspiration for late Qing particularistic critiques of Liaozhai. Turning to the complexity ofPu Songling's preface to Liaozhai, Zeitiin shows us how Pu Songling presents himselfvariously as historian, as bodhisattva, and as victim ofobsession, all ofwhich lend "strangeness" to the very center where he situates himself (as the historian to whom data flows). Taken together, the two chapters ofpart 1 demonstrate how difficult it is to come to any one "right" understanding ofLiaozhai: each age finds its own concerns mirrored in the book, and even Pu Songling is shown as continuaUy reinterpreting himself! In part 2, Zeitiin explores the tiiemes noted above: obsession...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 290-293
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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