Ariel Fox F'18
Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowships 2018
East Asian Languages and Civilizations
University of Chicago
Commercial Acts: Staging the Market in Early Modern China
My project centers around a group of influential yet understudied playwrights active in the commercial and cultural center of Suzhou during the second half of the seventeenth century. In a departure from the norms of elite drama, the plays attributed to the Suzhou playwrights take merchants and shopkeepers as their protagonists, construct plots around broken contracts and property disputes, and map the circulations of copper coins and silver ingots. Through the recasting of the merchant and his money as moral agents and the recuperation of commerce as a socially generative act, these plays make manifest an economic imaginary that links Suzhou playwrights, actors, and audiences with their counterparts in increasingly interconnected urban centers across the world. I argue that it is through this transformation of the stage into a self-consciously productive space that the early modern theater provided a framework for conceptualizing the global, the universal, and the infinite.