New Woman in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: Purdue University Press
Series: Comparative Cultural Studies
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Many people have helped me in the writing of this book. My parents have always encouraged my intellectual exploration, even as it led me to half a world away. My mentor, Professor Yi-tsi Mei Feuerwerker at the University of Michigan, has remained a constant source of inspiration and support. Special thanks go to Matthew Fryslie, friend and former classmate,...
Introduction: The New Woman
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How has the relationship between Chinese intellectuals and radical politics changed over the past century? How can we conceptualize the relationship between the projects for the modernization of Chinese culture and the liberation of Chinese women? What means and methods are open to us to evaluate the agency of Chinese women, especially female intellectuals, in...
ONE: Texts and Contexts of the New Woman
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The scope and depth of radical May Fourth intellectuals’ iconoclasm were arguably unique in modern history in general (Lin, The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness 6). Yet as is the case with any project redemptive in nature and transformational in objective, their modernization of China was predicated on a reconstruction of the past; they formulated a narrative of a diseased...
TWO: Books and Mirrors: Lu Xun and “the Girl Student”
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In his 1925 essay, “Lun zheng le yan kan” (“On Looking Facts in the Face”), Lu Xun forcefully stated his view on the nature and function of modern Chinese literature: “Literature is a fiery flame radiant with the national spirit, and simultaneously it is a light illuminating the way along which the spirit of a nation ought to go” (240). However, he remarked, the Chinese...
THREE: From Girl Student to Proletarian Woman: Yu Dafu’s Victimized Hero and His Female Other
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Yu Dafu’s narrative representation of women appeared to digress from the regular fares of May Fourth fiction. Not only did he privilege types of women, such as prostitutes and proletarian women, other than modern female intellectuals, but he also introduced into his fiction the figure of the Japanese woman, an Other alien in both gender and nationality. Yet Yu...
FOUR: En/gendering the Bildungsroman of the Radical Male: Ba Jin’s Girl Students and Women Revolutionaries
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If for Lu Xun, in order to be modern one had to be masculine while for Yu Dafu, in order to seem masculine one had to appear modern, then what happened when women writers also wanted to claim a share of modernity? Did they have to become more “like men” in order to be considered modern? Or did there exist an alternative modernity that would not only authorize...
FIVE: The Temptation and Salvation of the Male Intellectual: Mao Dun’s Women Revolutionaries
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The differences between the two writers, Ba Jin and Mao Dun, are obvious. Ba Jin, a relatively obscure young author in 1931, bombarded his audience with a series of emotionally explosive novels and novellas that indicted the traditional system. By contrast, Mao Dun belonged to an earlier generation of May Fourth intellectuals that also included Lu Xun and Yu Dafu, and had...
SIX: “Sentimental Autobiographies”: Feng Yuanjun, Lu Yin and the New Woman
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The first generation of May Fourth women writers such as Feng Yuanjun (1900–74) and Lu Yin (1898–1934) had to grapple with the complications of occupying a position defined as both the subject and object of the project of Chinese modernization. On the one hand, the emergence of women writers in the early decades of the twentieth century marked a significant stage in...
SEVEN: The “Bold Modern Girl”: Ding Ling’s Early Fiction
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In an apparent case of life imitating art, Ding Ling (1904–86) followed the path that the new woman had traced in fiction, progressing from girl student to woman revolutionary, and eventually joining in the Communist regime in Yan’an in 1936. Furthermore, she seemed to have thrived on that path, for she emerged as the most consistently prolific and highly regarded...
EIGHT: The Revolutionary Age: Ding Ling’s Fiction of the Early 1930s
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Ding Ling’s unwavering commitment to the pursuit of Chinese women’s self-empowerment, as well as her own quest for identity, came to concentrate even more sharply on the issue of women’s emotions in the early 1930s. In prose essays she repeatedly expressed concern over what she considered to be women’s unique weakness: self-defeating emotionalism. Distinctly echoing...
EPILOGUE: Ding Ling in Yan’an: A New Woman within the Party Structure?
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Of all the radical male and female writers within the May Fourth group who represented new women in fiction, Ding Ling’s life and work present by far the most complex case of negotiations of gender position, radical politics, and narrative style. The demands of such negotiations are registered in the changes we have seen in the theme and style of her fiction before 1936,...
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2004
Series Title: Comparative Cultural Studies