Martin W. Huang

Picture of Martin W. Huang
Professor, East Asian Studies
School of Humanities
PH.D., Washington University
Fax: (949) 824-3248
University of California, Irvine
474 HIB
Mail Code: 6000
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
traditional Chinese narrative, narrative theory, cultural history of late imperial China
Research Abstract
While reading literary texts closely, I have always made special effort to historicize my readings. In my earlier book Literati and Self-Re/Presentation, I seek for answers to the question of why the Chinese novel was becoming increasingly autobiographical during the eighteenth century, even as explicitly autobiographical writing was in decline. I suggest that several new trends in the development of the genre (such as its accelerated “literatization” process) and the changing status of the literati contributed to the rise of this new feature of the novel. In this book, I tackle important issues such as literati self-representation and its relationship to the image of women in the novel and the intricate masking narrative strategies adopted by different novelists.

In my more recent work "Desire and Fictional Narrative in Late Imperial China," I concentrate on the intellectual and cultural context of late imperial China, demonstrating why the rise and eventual maturing of Chinese fiction have to be studied in relation to the changing and increasingly complex views of desire that began to emerge during this historical period. The study is mostly composed of detailed analyses of specific fictional texts, drawing attention to an important trend in the history of traditional Chinese fiction--a shift of focus from yu (physical desire) to qing (romantic sentiment) as well as the anxieties and complications that accompanied this shift. I explore issues such as how the concept of qing was appropriated to redraw some of the gender boundaries and, at the same time, reaffirm the core gender values of the patriarchal. In addition to offering refreshing readings of several classic works, I discuss at length many important but long-neglected works, most of which have never received serious attention from scholars either in China or elsewhere. It is my conviction that our “conceptualization” of “the traditional Chinese novel” should not be based on only a few “masterpieces.”

The question of literati identity continues to interest me. In my book “Negotiating Masculinities in Late Imperial China," I attempt to examine how masculinities are represented and re/negotiated in works of different cultural discourses (poetry, fiction, historiography, Confucian classics, political treatises, conduct books, etc.) during the late imperial period. I focus on their fluidity in different historical and cultural contexts as well as certain narrative genres’ unique capacity to complicate such fluidity. One of the issues explored at length is how the fictional representation of masculinities was intimately related to the literati’s changing self-perception. One of my relaed on-going projects is "Male Friendship in Late Imperial China" and some of the research results are presented in my contributions to the book "Male Friendship in Ming China" that I edited.

Another on-going project is tentatively titled "Husbands in Mourning: Bereavement, Memory and Gender in Late Imperial China." It concentrates on different kinds of elegiac writings by male literati on their deceased spouses in Ming-Qing China (approximately 16th-19th centuries), examining the questions of how womanhood was constructed and defined by men in a polygamous society and how such male reflections on womanhood in turn helped define these grieving authors’ own manhood in relation to their spouses as well as their male peers.
Intimate Memory: Gender and Mourning in Late Imperial China (SUNY, 2018)
Male Friendship in Ming China (editor; Brill, 2007)
Negotiating Masculinities in Late Imperial China (Hawaii, 2006)
Sankes'Legs: Sequels, Continuations, Rewritings and Chinese Fiction (editor; Hawaii, 2004)
Desire and Fictional Narrative in Late Imperial China (Harvard, 2001)
Literati and Self-Re/Presentation: Autobiographical Sensibility in the Eighteenth-Century Chinese Novel (stanford, 1995).
Professional Societies
member of the Associaton for Asian Studies
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