Victorian Popular Fictions 6.1 5 Granata

 

“The Meaning of Tao”: Daoism, Sinology and Miscegenation in Alicia Little’s A Marriage in China (1896)

Silvia Granata

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Abstract

The second half of the nineteenth century was characterised by an unprecedented debate on foreign religions and systems of beliefs, epitomised by the fascination for Oriental wisdom. Thanks to the development of sinology, this came to include a growing interest in Chinese cultural traditions, such as Daoism; yet, such interest also engendered fears of reverse conversion, regarded as an especially insidious kind of “yellow peril,” not involving a military conquest, but a cultural one. Through the analysis of Alicia Little’s novel, A Marriage in China, this article investigates an instance of how the still tentative knowledge of Daoism was received and reframed in popular literature. On the one hand, some elements of the plot seem to reflect fears of cultural contamination; on the other hand, Little’s text also displays an intriguing curiosity for Chinese philosophy and religion, questioning instead some aspects of the Christian missionary movement. The novel thus recapitulates, in a popular form, some of the tensions underlying the Victorian encounter with Chinese culture.

Keywords

Alicia Little; A Marriage in China; Daoism; sinology; miscegenation

Date of Acceptance: 24 June 2024

Date of Publication: 28 June 2024

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Granata, Silvia. 2024. “‘The Meaning of Tao”: Daoism, Sinology and Miscegenation in Alicia Little’s A Marriage in China (1896)’” Victorian Popular Fictions, 6.1: 57-71. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online) DOI: https://doi.org/10.46911/EYPU2853

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