C. D. Alison Bailey

Assistant Professor

Research Interests

pre-modern literature
fiction and literary criticism

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Unpacking the latrine goddess: the evolution of Zigu invitations from the fifth century to the fifteenth century (2021)

This thesis aims to unpack the evolution of Zigu belief from the fifth century to the fifteenth century from multiple aspects, with a specific focus on the gender factor. In this thesis, by examining the geographical and cultural background of Zigu, I will propose a thorough explanation of Zigu belief and the invitation ritual of Zigu. A detailed textual analysis will be given to lay a foundation for tracing the evolution of and changes in Zigu belief.The Zigu story in Yiyuan (A Garden of Marvels), which is the earliest extant Zigu record, indicates that Zigu belief could be dated back to some time much earlier than the fifth century. Unfortunately, no earlier record is extant. Even the sources recorded in the Northern and Southern dynasties (420-589) are rather scarce now. This scarce source situation did not change until the Song dynasty (960-1279). Fortunately, some Zigu records in the Song dynasty were handed down to us. Moreover, the Song dynasty “witnessed” significant changes in the evolution of Zigu belief (see Chapter Five): the worship date of Zigu was no longer limited to a fixed date (on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month); the designation “Zigu” changed from an individual name to a category name of all the supernatural beings who descended in Zigu invitations; and the changes in the gender and the purpose of main practitioners of Zigu invitations.Besides, Zigu belief is not merely a unilateral worship from believers towards the deity. Zigu’s alleged abilities in prediction lay a solid foundation for the establishment of Zigu belief. However, what motivates the evolution and transmission of Zigu belief is the dynamic and interactive relationship among the protagonist, the practitioner, and the writer, which are the three indispensable components in Zigu belief.

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Reading the novel through odours: an investigation into Chinese olfactory aesthetics using The Story of the Stone as a case study (2020)

By taking the mid-eighteenth Chinese novel Story of the Stone as a case study, this thesis aims to demonstrate that the concept of a literary “olfactory aesthetics” is a single object with two aspects: (1) authors employ odours as a xiefa 寫法 (narrative method) to add metaphorical, symbolic, and allegorical implications in fictional works; (2) readers (including late-imperial Chinese literary critics, as well as modern readers like me) employ odours as a dufa 讀法 (reading method) in interpreting olfactory narrations in early literary writings. Following an overview of several odour-related dufa in late-imperial commentarial history, chapter one introduces its odour-oriented dufa, including odour symbolism, olfactory division, odour distribution, odour cartography, and odour coordinates. Chapter two explores three ideological systems in this novel through examining the symbolic significance of odours and the mechanism of point of view in developing a framework of olfactory division. Chapter three uses odour distribution and odour coordinates to read the author’s mapping of Grand Prospect Garden. I argue that odours can serve as an approach to writing and reading fictional works, since (1) defining odours relies less on the defined characters’ “biological” odours, but more as the symbolic extension of their invisible essence such as characteristics, temperaments, and virtues. (2) The division between fragrant and foul-smelling odours often matches the definer’s evaluation of “the self” and “the other.” The characters in this novel divide along olfactory lines to evaluate others, closely matching the three separate yet linked ideological spheres long seen by scholars as central to the novel’s meanings. That is, the immortals’ play with real and unreal, the orthodox Confucian concern with moral obligations, and the cult of qing among the garden-world characters. (3) Odour overlap (and contrast) all match the close (and far) relationship between the occupants in this novel, as revealed in a four-character Chinese idiom, qiwei xiangtou 氣味相投 (people with similar personality and aspirations share the same odours and tastes). (4) Odours usually appear as symbolic signals of extraordinary experience, generate strong sensory atmospheres, and affectively map different spaces as overlapping zones in the literary imagination.

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