Professor, Chinese Language and Literature
East Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Kansas
Keith McMahon is professor in the department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Kansas, where he teaches Chinese language and literature. He studies fiction from the 16th to 19th centuries, male and female character types in literature and history, eroticism, the culture of opium smoking in 19th century China, the structure of sexuality in late imperial China, and the history of imperial marriage from the Han to the Qing dynasties. Recently he published Polygamy and Sublime Passion: Sexuality in China on the Verge of Modernity (2010) and Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao (2013).
He received his B.A. in French and Comparative Literature from Indiana University, his M.A. in Chinese from Yale University, and his Ph.D. in Chinese from Princeton University. He studied one year of Chinese language in Taiwan and did Ph.D. and post-doctorate research in Shanghai and Beijing for a total of five years. He has taught at the University of Kansas since 1984, where he was chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures from 1996 to 2008.
In the past decade, he has written on opium smoking in 19th and 20th century China and Euro-America; nineteenth-century fiction and sexuality in China on the verge of modernity; and the history of emperors and their wives and concubines, the institution of imperial polygamy, and the subject of queenship. He has lectured in Chinese and English on these topics in the United States, China, Taiwan, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, and France. He has published five books, Causality and Containment in Seventeenth-century Chinese Fiction (Brill, 1988), Misers, Shrews, and Polygamists: Sexuality and Male/Female Relations in Eighteenth-century Chinese Fiction (Duke, 1995), The Fall of the God of Money: Opium Smoking in Nineteenth-century China (Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), Polygamy and Sublime Passion: Sexuality in China on the Verge of Modernity (University of Hawaii Press, 2010), and Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013). He is currently writing a second volume to the last book, which will be about the history of imperial wives and concubines from the tenth to early twentieth centuries.
马克梦教授从事明清小说、中国的性文化与性历史、晚清社会与文学中的鸦片文化、中国濒临现代的性别文化结构、以及历代宫廷中的后妃制度与性政治等方面的研究。于1974年获得印第安纳大学法语与比较文学系学士学位，于1976年获耶鲁大学东亚语言文化系的硕士学位，于1984年获得普林斯顿大学东亚研究系博士学位。1976 至1977年在台湾史丹福中心读书，1979年至1981年在上海复旦大学中文系进修，1984 年至1985年、1991年在北京大学访学。从1984至今在堪萨斯大学东亚语言文化系任教，从1996年至2008年任系主任。已出版了五本关于明末至晚清小说的著作。其中Misers, Shrews, and Polygamists: Sexuality and Male/Female Relations in Eighteenth-century Chinese Fiction, 于2001年由北京東方出版社出版了中译本《吝嗇鬼，潑婦，一夫多妻者》。最近专注于历代皇帝与后妃的婚姻关系的研究，于2013年出版了第一册《牝鸡无晨:中国历代皇帝的后与妃,汉至辽》。Books:
Causality and Containment in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Fiction
This book explores late Ming vernacular fiction focusing on the exposition of sexual transgression and the ideology of the containment of desire. Related topics include the theme of causality and its role in the story's mapping of the logic of adultery, adultery as an emblem of the woman's escape from containment, and the use of the narrative themes as a locus of sexual transgression. Published in 1988.
Review by Katherine Carlitz, Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 48, No. 2 (May, 1989), pp. 368-369.
Review by David Rolston, Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR), Vol. 12, (Dec., 1990), pp. 147-150.
Misers, Shrews, and Polygamists: Sexuality and Male-Female Relations in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Fiction
Based on a comprehensive reading of eighteenth-century Chinese novels and a theoretical approach grounded in psychoanalytic and feminist criticism, the book examines how polygamous privilege functions in these novels and provides one of the first full accounts of literary representations of sexuality and gender in pre-modern China. Published in 1995.
Review by Ellen Widmer, Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR), Vol. 18, (Dec., 1996), pp. 228-231.
Review by Daria Berg, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of
London, Vol. 61, No. 1 (1998), pp. 180-181.
Review by Jeannette L. Faurot, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 55, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 444-445.
Review by Susan Mann, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Jun., 1997), pp. 262-270.
Review by Frank Dikötter, The China Quarterly, No. 148, Special Issue: Contemporary Taiwan
(Dec., 1996), pp. 1392-1393.
The Chinese translation of Misers, Shrews, and Polygamists.
Published in 2001.
The Fall of the God of Money: Opium Smoking in Nineteenth-century China
In this first cross-cultural study of opium in China, the book explores early Western observations of opium smoking, early definitions of addiction, the formation of arguments for and against the legalization of opium, the portrayals of opium smoking in Chinese poetry and prose, and scenes of opium-smoking interactions among male and female smokers and smokers of all social levels in 19th-century China. Published in 2002.
Review by Lars Peter Laamann, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 68, No. 3 (2005), pp. 494-495.
Polygamy and Sublime Passion: Sexuality in China on the Verge of Modernity
The book provides a literary history of the normative ideal of polygamy from the late Ming to the late Qing, countering the ideal with the theme of sublime love between two people. It argues that the fantasies of polygamy had intimate ties to the imagination of political power and sheds new light on texts that have been increasingly employed to redefine China's literary transition to modernity. The book reads late Qing love stories in a historically symbolic way by taking them as part of a larger fantasy of Chinese civilization undergoing fundamental crisis. Published in 2009.
Review by Paul Keulemans, Journal of Asian Studies, 69.4 (2010): pp. 1197-1198.
Review by Rainier Lanselle, Etudes chinoises, vol XXIX (2010) pp. 357-362.
Review by Susan Mann, Journal of Chinese Studies, 52 (2010), pp. 11-14.
Review by Roland Altenburger, Nan Nü: Men, Women and Gender in China, 12.2 (2010), pp. 353-356
Review by Alexander Des Forges, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 72, 1 (2012), pp. 148-155.
Review by Hsu Hui-lin, Hanxue yanjiu [Chinese Studies], 30.2 (2012): pp. 329-335.
Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao
Chinese emperors guaranteed male successors by taking multiple wives, in some cases hundreds and even thousands. Women Shall Not Rule offers a fascinating history of imperial wives and concubines, especially in light of the greatest challenges to polygamous harmony—rivalry between women and their attempts to engage in politics. Besides ambitious empresses and concubines, these vivid stories of the imperial polygamous family are also populated with prolific emperors, wanton women, libertine men, cunning eunuchs, and bizarre cases of intrigue and scandal among rival wives. Published in 2013
Review by Yu Zhang, Women and Gender in Chinese Studies Review (中国妇女与性别研究书评, 2014).
Review in Publishers Weekly, 978-1-4422-2289-2
Sexe et Pouvoir à la Cour de Chine
French translation of Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao. Published by Les Belles Lettres, 2016, and translated by Damien Chaussende.
Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing
The second of a two-volume history of imperial wives and women rulers in China, Celestial Women begins with the Song dynasty, whose Emperor Huizong had over 140 wives and 65 children, more than any emperor in Chinese history. Others like him followed until the end of the eighteenth century, when a decrease in scale and energy occurred. Everyone in this long period lived in the aftermath of Wu Zetian (624–705), the only female emperor in Chinese history, after whom it became a central mission to ensure that no other woman ruled as independently and powerfully as she. Restrictions on women’s participation in politics increased, from formalizing the use of the curtained divide for female regents in the Song to the complete prohibition of female regents in the Ming. But strong and active women continued to appear, of both high and low rank. The Chinese harem was far from a luxurious setting for pleasure and escape. Women counseled emperors, ghostwrote for them, oversaw succession when they died, and dominated them when they were willing or weak. They introduced other women to royal husbands and sons in the attempt to influence their relationships. They enhanced their aura and that of the royal house by engaging in art and religion. Chinese dynastic history ended when a woman broke the rule that women should not rule for the last time, Dowager Cixi, the last great monarch before China’s transformation into a republic.
In the News:
- Television interview on women rulers in China, at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Sept 5, 2014, http://vid.cssn.cn/sp/sp_zdtj/201412/t20141202_1425838.shtml or http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XODQwMDIzNzgw.html
- Interview in Shanghai Review of Books, (in Chinese), "Keith McMahon discusses Tang dynasty women rulers," http://www.dfdaily.com/html/1170/2013/9/22/1074618.shtml
- KU News Service: "Professor's new book examines deep opposition to female rulers," https://news.ku.edu/2013/09/23/professors-new-book-examines-opposition-female-rulers-china
- KU News Service: "Eunuchs popularized in 'Game of Thrones' have historical parallels to Imperial China," https://news.ku.edu/2014/04/28/eunuchs-popularized-game-thrones-have-historical-parallels-imperial-china
- B.A. 1974, Indiana University, Comparative Literature and French
- M.A., 1976, Yale University, East Asian Studies
- Ph.D., 1984, Princeton University, East Asian Studies
Education in Taiwan and China:
- Stanford Inter-university Language Center, Taibei, Taiwan, 1976-77
- CSCPRC (Fellowship, Committee on Scholarly Communications with the People's Republic of China), Fudan University, Shanghai, 1979-81.
Research in China:
- CSCPRC, Beijing University, Beijing, 1985-86, summer 1987, and 1991
- Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines from Song to Qing, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.
- "The Potent Eunuch: The Story of Wei Zhongxian," in Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture, 1.1-2 (Nov. 2014): 1-28. [PDF]
- Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.
- "The Institution of Polygamy in the Chinese Imperial Palace," Journal of Asian Studies (Nov. 2013): 917-36. [PDF]
- "Women Rulers in Imperial China," Nannü: Men, Women and Gender in Early and Imperial China, 15.2: 179-218. [PDF]
- “Polygyny, Bound Feet, and Perversion,” Extrême-Orient, Extrême Occident, hors série (2012): 159-187.
- Polygamy and Sublime Passion: Sexuality in China on the Verge of Modernity, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 2009.
- "Opium Smoking and Modern Subjectivity," Postcolonial Studies, 8, 2 (2005): 165-180.
- "Cultural Destiny and Polygynous Love in Zou Tao's Shanghai Dust," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 27 (2005): 117-135.
- The Fall of the God of Money: Opium Smoking in Nineteenth-century China, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2002.
- "Opium and Sexuality in Late Qing Fiction," Nannü 2.1 (2000): 129-179.
- Misers, Shrews, and Polygamists: Sexuality and Male-Female Relations in Eighteenth-century Chinese Fiction, Durham: Duke University Press, 1995.
- Causality and Containment in Seventeenth-century Chinese Fiction. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988.
- "Lacan's Theory of Sexual Difference in Late Imperial China,"
- "The Male Consort of the Remarkable Woman and the Ontology of the Feminine,"
- "The Structure of Sexuality in China on the Verge of Modernity,"
- in Tsing-hua Journal of Chinese Literature, Taiwan, volume 1: 293-349, 2007.
The Story of Lao Song, Retired KMT Soldier
Li Ling 李零 talks about Ma Kemeng 马克梦
Deborah and Keith at Col du Galibier, biking in the French Alps, July 2010