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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Dowager Empress Cixi: Eight Versions of Tragedy at Once, February to May, 2020

  • Author(s): Miller, Gabby
  • Advisor(s): Martinez, Daniel J
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This project works to disassemble a tragedy into its parts, both in terms of  stagecraft & composition by staging the biography of The Dowager Empress Cixi as an exhibition. This is a text written in lieu of a physical exhibition that could not happen, in preparation for one that could. This text is written in order to unearth, levitate and vibrate the threads at work in this exploration as it evolves. 

This text is also a record of February to May, 2020. 

I continue to enter into this endeavor to problematize & highlight the ways in which we fictionalize, or narrativize, from Aristotle to the present, in order to open onto different relationships with past, present, & future. This project leans heavily on Aristotle’s break down of tragic plot structure to map the biography of the Empress Dowager Cixi, ruler of the Qing Dynasty from 1860 to 1908, into a physical exhibition. For now, this project is an experiment in written text, and it lets itself drift beyond the limits of Cixi’s worlds. 

Concerned in particular with the circulation of myth and image, I attempt to unravel some of the Kantian underpinnings of Nietzche’s conception of tragedy by examining passages of The Birth of Tragedy, and highlighting their links to The Critique of Pure Reason (CPR). In returning to this foundational text, I hope to deepen my understanding of the ways that Nietzche relies on Kant to “find our ways through the labyrinthian origins of Greek tragedy."

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