Traveling Stories and Untold Desires: Female Sexuality in Song China, 10th-13th Centuries
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This dissertation examines the historicity of female sexuality during the Song dynasty (960-1279), a time period when print technology, popular culture, and commercial activities had begun to boom yet prior to the emergence of a market for women's writings. It is both an intellectual history--to trace the changing and conflicting conceptualizations of female sexuality in both elite and popular discourses, and a social history--to look for the possible space and resources for women to negotiate autonomy over their sexual bodies and explore their desires. This dissertation proposes an approach--both academically and politically useful--to study the history of women, gender, and sexuality in premodern China in search of women's agency and possibilities of transgression using only extant sources written by elite men. That is, I treat my sources as multivocal and inspirational in order to emphasize the contradictory nature of intellectual discourses and social norms on the one hand, and popular appropriations of "traveling stories" and "circulating knowledge" on the other. I seek to examine the historical process of the formation of norms concerning female sexuality during this critical period in Chinese history, the nuances of "queerness" and transgressivenss in my source materials, and the ways that Song Dynasty culture and women's behaviors and practices related to their sexual bodies mutually defined each other.
- History