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Title:Casting off the shackles of family: Ibsen's Nora character in modern Chinese literature, 1918-1942
Author(s):Chang, Shuei-May
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Palencia-Roth, Michael
Department / Program:Comparative and World Literature
Discipline:Comparative Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
Literature, Asian
Literature, Germanic
Abstract:This dissertation analyzes the reception and transformation of Ibsen's Nora character in modern Chinese literature by using the theories of female heroic journey in books like Carol Pearson's and Katherine Pope's The Female Hero in American and British Literature and Maureen Murdock's The Heroine's Journey in order to illuminate the process of women's pursuit of freedom and independence during the May Fourth era. By examining the various applications of the Nora theme as a mythic motif, we can see how Chinese writers adapted western female heroic patterns to political and social circumstances in China.
Heroic theories of the female journey and the reception of Ibsen in China take up the first two chapters. In the next three, this dissertation studies the Nora characters created by three writers, namely, Lu Hsun, Mao Tun, and Ting Ling. Lu Hsun's talk entitled "What Happens After Nora Leaves Home?" in 1923 shows his concern about women's economic independence and his pessimism about the fate of liberated Chinese women. In his short story "Regrets for the Past," Lu Hsun presents a Chinese Nora Tzu-chun, who is driven to despair and withers to death. Her silence in the first person male narrative implies the complicated problem of the subjugation of women in both practical life and textual politics. However, Lu Hsun's change toward a more hopeful attitude after the 1930s anticipates the socialist trend of thought in the post-May Fourth era.
Among a gallery of female characters which Mao Tun creates, Hsien-hsien in the story "Creation" and Mei in the novel Rainbow are typical Nora figures. Both of them leave the family and try to seek self-fulfillment by participating in social movements. However, the pursuit of personal fulfillment will contradict their socialist commitment. Thus their heroic pursuits are destined to fail. Also Mao Tun's presentation of Mei as a sex object at various points undermines the feminist cause which he seemingly advocates. In all, Mao Tun's socialist stance about women's emancipation will prove ineffective and illusory.
In her early story "Miss Sophie's Diary," Ting Ling presents a woman's struggles with love and sexuality. Sophie, her female hero, does not experience the economic worries and difficulties in leaving home. Nevertheless, she challenges several patriarchal assumptions and achieves sufficient illumination to presence her sense of self. Also Ting Ling's choice of the diary form shows Sophie's creative ability and helps to convey the idea of "ecriture feminine" by writing about a woman's repressed emotion in a language closer to the body. The emphasis on the intimate friendship between Sophie and her older female friend Yun suggests how significant the addition of the "other woman" is to the development of a female self. The hidden theme of female bonding and even female homoeroticism proves that Sophie has entered the third stage of a female hero's journey, that is: she identifies with the mother figure and affirms her gendered identity.
The comparison of these three writers with Ibsen and among themselves shows that the reception of Ibsen in China is strongly affected by the special historical and social contexts of the May Fourth Movement and after. The Nora characters in these literary works demonstrate different approaches to the woman question in twentieth-century China. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Chang, Shuei-may
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9503158
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9503158

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