Women and Writing in Modern China

Women and Writing in Modern China

Women and Writing in Modern China

Women and Writing in Modern China

Synopsis

Analyzing the protracted cultural debate in modern China over what and how women should write, this book focuses on two concepts of great importance in Chinese literary modernization - the new, liberated woman and the new, autonomous writing. The author argues that in many modernizing countries traditional constrictions of women became a focus of struggle, and improvements in the treatment of women were considered a sign of national health. In China, however, the traditional emphasis on female virtue and male talent led to protests by women writers against the virtuous woman. Their writings emphasized not the modernizing virtues of equality in love and marriage, nor the mother as educator of a generation of nation-builders, but unconventional relationships and the refusal to marry.

Excerpt

This book investigates how, in twentieth-century China, two modern concepts, the new woman and the new writing, joined in a protracted cultural debate over what and how women should and could write. It is by no means a comprehensive study of women writers nor of their writing or the issues they confront, but rather a study of how, under the umbrella of the modernizing nation-state, two producers and indicators of modernity work within Chinese culture. In modernizing nations all over the world, women's education and culture came to stand for the health and strength of the nation and, at the same time, traditional literatures came under attack by those who demanded art for art's sake and the rejection of previous contexts of morality or religion. Two theories of modernization, women's liberation and the autonomous aesthetic, defined the parameters within which writers and critics discussed, debated, analyzed, and contested women's issues and literary issues. In each culture, however, the specific development of gender and literary discourses produced a different trajectory. While acknowledging that changes in literary . . .

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