The Frenchman and the Chinese Opera in the Late Qing Empire
UC Los Angeles
This book project adopts an interdisciplinary and transnational perspective to understand a formative moment in the construction of normative sexuality in early twentieth-century China. The window onto this transformation comes through a paired reading of Chen Sen’s novel, Pinhua baojian (1849) against the adaptation of the same story sixty-plus years later by the French interpreter-diplomat George Soulié de Morant (1878-1955). The first work portrays the homoerotic elegance that accompanied the opera demimonde in the Qing capital. The second marks the moment at which the refined culture of male-male commercial sex in China was recast as backward and tawdry. This collapse of the culture of homoerotic elegance was a casualty of foreign aggression in China circa 1900. With attention to the scholarly literature on both gender and colonialism, this work will offer a new transnational perspective on the construction of modern sexuality in China.