Gnarly old men, familiar abusive speech, and images of the very large and small : grotesque in the Zhuangzi

Field, Jesse Lewis
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The Zhuangzi, a major classical Chinese text dating from between the 4th and 2nd centuries B.C., is examined in close readings that emphasize particular literary achievements of the piece. The readings are grouped by sets of images that are found to correspond very roughly with the main elements of "grotesque realism" as surmised by Mikhail Bakhtin in his influential work Rabelais and His World (1968). These elements do not form a full manifestation of grotesque realism in the Zhuangzi, but attention to the workings of selected images reveals that a literary understanding of the Zhuangzi supplements and extends a purely philosophical one; in particular, from a literary perspective it is easy to see that the work is the product of many hands over time, but that the common themes and ambiguities of the earliest layers evolve and become more complex in a more or less systematic way