Pagodas in Play

Pagodas in Play

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Pagodas in Play analyzes the treatment of China in the imaginative and spectacular world of eighteenth-century Italian opera. It shows how Italians used perceptions of Chinese culture to address local and transnational developments, particularly Enlightenment and secular reform initiatives. Its focus on the texts and performance practices of opera, an entertainment form accessible to a wide public, reveals cultural operations and identities harder to detect in non-fictional reformist writings, the texts traditionally privileged to explain Italian mediations of Enlightenment ideas. In its close reading of nine libretti of the most salient Settecento operas treating China (opere serie and opere buffe by authors including Metastasio, Zeno, Goldoni and Lorenzi), Pagodas in Play differentiates Italian iterations of Chinese culture from French and English counterparts. It further challenges certain tenets of orientalism, showing how it operates when nationalist and/or colonialist projects are absent, and how orientalist practices in eighteenth-century Italy exhibit early on the complexity some scholars locate only in the twentieth century. Adrienne Ward teaches Italian literature and culture at the University of Virginia.Guy notes the enjoyment derived from the perceived ugliness of Chinese porcelain figurines: . . . especially among the wealthy, there was an obsessive desire to acquire imported art ... The fad of decorating the interiors of villas with frescoes of Chinese life also falls in this category, since the transports of a Chinese panorama would be enjoyed at home, likely within an intimate circle of family and friends.

Title:Pagodas in Play
Author:Adrienne Ward
Publisher:Bucknell University Press - 2010


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