115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Political Exoticism: Selective Representation of Chinese Reality in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Snow in Midsummer

Wei Feng, Shandong University (China)

This paper discusses the Royal Shakespeare Company’s play Snow in Midsummer (2017), adapted from Guan Hanqing’s The Injustice to Dou E by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, an American playwright with Chinese origin. The story implies a critique of Chinese politics. However, her observation and criticism of Chinese politics are informed by cliché, stereotypes, and simplification. Instead of contributing to a better understanding of China, this adaptation aborts RSC’s original plan with reinforced prejudices. 

Proposal: 

This paper discusses the Royal Shakespeare Company’s play Snow in Midsummer (2017), adapted from Guan Hanqing’s The Injustice to Dou E by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, an American playwright with Chinese origin. The story tells a ghost’s search for justice in an unjust society, underneath which is the subtext of the corrupt political and economic ecology of contemporary China. The main plot involves several affective stories, which makes this play universal, while the subtext’s preoccupation with representing contemporary China makes the work specific. The story, therefore, implies a critique of Chinese politics. However, Cowhig’s hybrid identity and knowledge determine that she is less an insider than an outsider, and is unable to represent and speak for China with sufficient authority and neutrality. As a result, her observation and criticism of Chinese politics are informed by cliché, stereotypes, and simplification. Unreflective political exoticism becomes commodity for British audiences/consumers. In this regard, instead of contributing to a better understanding of China, this adaptation aborts RSC’s original plan with reinforced prejudices. 

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