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2015 events

Anticlerical erotica in China and France

Research seminar
With Dr Junqing Wu, University of Exeter
4 November 2015, 4-6pm
Room S-1.04, Strand Campus, King's College London

**All welcome**

Abstract

Late-sixteenth century (late Ming Dynasty) China witnessed the growth of a popular erotic literature involving Buddhist monks and (less frequently) nuns. This literature consisted mainly of romantic/erotic novellas and courtroom fictions – a new set of genres emerging in response to broadening literacy and the expansion of print culture. 

In eighteenth-century France, erotic/pornographic depictions of priests, monks and nuns, including the well-known Thérèse Philosophe and 120 Days of Sodom, also circulated widely. Like their Chinese counterparts, works of this kind were often published anonymously, accompanied by illustrations, were usually vehicles of social or moral criticism, and were widely looked down upon as a “low” form of literature. 

Such parallels invite a comparativist analysis. Is the appearance of similar motifs in these two independent literatures merely accidental, or does it point to a deeper congruence of social and intellectual forces? And what do differences between these two literatures tell us about the role and status of the clergy in France and China respectively? It will also contribute to answering the much-discussed question of whether China underwent a process of “secularisation” in this period. It will also shed some light on the question of China’s “modernisation” in the absence of movements equivalent to the Enlightenment.

About the speaker

Junqing Wu is a Past and Present fellow from the Institute of Historical Research (London).  Dr Wu gained her MA in International Relations and BA in Law from the East China Normal University of Shanghai. She received her doctoral degree in 2014 from the University of Nottingham. She has been offered a preliminary contract by Brill publishers to publish her doctoral thesis “Mandarins and Heretics: the Construction of Heresy in Chinese State Discourse."

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