The Male Consort of the Remarkable Woman
This introductory chapter lays out the fundamental themes of this study: female agency and Chinese polygamy. It positions polygamy as the dominant sexual regime for the males of the late Qing dynasty, examining the linkages between this regime and China's transition into global modernity during this period. Yet the true focus of this chapter (and the book as a whole) is not on the masterful male polygamist and his fantasies, but the persistent theme of female agency underlying the literature of these masculine fantasies, examined in terms of a figure henceforth referred to as the “remarkable woman.” She defines female agency both within and outside the context of polygamy and prostitution. Moreover, female agency is especially clear in an age-old motif that emerges in the late Ming and again in the late Qing: female heroism in times of male failure, weakness, and despair.
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