The Promise and Peril of Things: Literature and Material Culture in Late Imperial China
By Wai-Yee Li
Columbia University Press, forthcoming April 2022
In Ming and Qing China, inquiry into things and their contradictions flourished, and its depth and complexity belie the notion that material culture simply reflects status anxiety or class conflict. Wai-yee Li traces notions of the pleasures and dangers of things in the literature and thought of late imperial China, offering new insights into Ming and Qing literary and aesthetic sensibilities, as well as the intersections of material culture with literature, intellectual history, and art history. With examples spanning the late sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries, she shows how relations with things can both encode and resist social change, political crisis, and personal loss.