Celebration of the strange
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This dissertation seeks to uncover the artistic appeal and significance of horror tales in Youyang zazu with the assistance of Western concepts and theories. The study begins with an examination of the Youyang zazu collection in its textual and cultural context and argues that it is assembled according to the aesthetic principle of qi which rejects the normal and the familiar, and embraces the unusual, the special, the unique, the odd and the particularized. The study continues with a close analysis of selected horror tales in Youyang zazu using three different approaches—fantastic horror, monster horror and cosmic horror. By analyzing themes, structures and narrative techniques of these horror stories, I argue that these horror stories are integral components of the Youyang zazu collection. They add vitality and tension to the representation of the strange and advance the collection in its aesthetic pursuit of qi. These three approaches each emphasize a different aspect in the representation of the strange. From the literary mechanism that generates strangeness, to the very entity that embodies the strange and to the atmosphere that highlights the incomprehensibility and uncontrollability of the strange, each approach offers a unique perspective on how the effect of strangeness is conveyed and amplified. By investigating the aesthetic issues at play in the medium of horror and in the context of zhiguai through the lens of Western concepts, my study also explores the possibility of examining zhiguai tales from new literary perspectives and provides fresh critical insights on the poetics of Chinese horror narrative in general.