This study examines the dual strategies of auto/biographical production in the immensely rich corpus of writings by the nineteenth-century woman literata Shen Shanbao recently rediscovered by the author in rare book collections in China. The focus of the analysis is on the conditions of production of self-writing, including the processes of textual organization, genre manipulation, and self-editing. The study demonstrates an exemplary instance of gendered intervention in late imperial China that attempts to change the terms of writing practices and generic conventions to accommodate the desire to write the gendered self and gendered subjects into history.
This paper examines the form, content, and cultural significance of poems written by a number of otherwise unknown women before they committed suicide. The specific conditions under which these inscriptions are produced are disorder or violence in various forms, whether cultural, social, or familial, that threaten the integrity of the female body. The suicide poems are often accompanied by a short autobiographical preface. The author argues that this act of self-inscription at the moment of death is an act of agency. Through this textual production, the women reproduce a peculiarly Chinese sense of embodiment in inscription, and as selfrecorders, they write themselves into history. These women construct the integrity of their bodies in/out of disorder by textualizing and transforming them into cultural bodies inscribed with value and order.
Lü Bicheng is remembered today mostly for her accomplishment as a poet in the classical ci genre (song lyrics). Drawing on her writings and those of her contemporaries, this study attempts to reconstruct Lü Bicheng's multifaceted, cosmopolitan life trajectory that has become obscured by the nationalist turn in twentieth-century China. By excavating Lü Bicheng's many self-inventions and metamorphoses, I aim to show how the ci genre as her mode of self-inscription was transformed into a protean medium for the expression of progressive rhetoric, cultural identity, and the assimilation of new experiences. The complex cultural and linguistic dialogues exemplified by Lü's life and writings open up alternative readings of modernity.
Only recently has the enormous literary output of women writers of the Ming and Qing periods (1368-1911) been rediscovered. Through these valuable texts, we apprehend in ways not possible earlier the complexity of women’s experiences in the inner quarters and their varied responses to challenges facing state and society. Writing in many genres, women engaged with topics as varied as war, travel, illness, love, friendship, female heroism, and religion. Drawing on a library of newly digitized resources, this volume's eleven chapters describe, analyze, and theorize these materials. They question previous assumptions about women’s lives and abilities, open up new critical space in Chinese literary history and offer new perspectives on China’s culture and society.
“This volume rewrites the history of Chinese women’s literature by taking a truly inter-disciplinary (instead of merely multi-disciplinary) approach. In so doing, it ends up illuminating the centrality of writing women to the social, political, and intellectual lives of the Chinese empire from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.”
Prof. Dorothy Ko, Barnard College, Columbia University, author of
Cinderella's Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding (California, 2005).
Beyond Tradition and Modernity is a collection of original essays which considers the complexities behind the dramatic changes generated in China during the last decades of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth century. As men and women literally-or metaphorically- crossed into new geographical worlds, they came to express their understanding of the expanding universe in a variety of ways which cannot be neatly labeled either traditional or modern. The contributors to this volume demonstrate how the creativity of these writers marked a new moment in historical and literary practices transcending this usual binary and simple teleology. Their essays expose how the ethnographic, literary, and educational projects of these men and women gave voice to new ideals and ideas that reflect the changing boundaries of gender at this time.
During the late Qing reform era (1895-1912), women for the first time in Chinese history emerged in public space in collective groups. They assumed new social and educational roles and engaged in intense debates about the place of women in China's present and future. These debates found expression in new media, including periodicals and pictorials, which not only harnessed the power of existing cultural forms but also encouraged experimentation with a variety of new literary genres and styles - works increasingly produced by and for Chinese women.
Different Worlds of Discourse explores the reform period from three interrelated and comparatively neglected perspectives: the construction of gender roles, the development of literary genres, and the emergence of new forms of print media.