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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Literary Body Discourses: Corporeality, Gender and Class Difference in Contemporary Chinese Women’s Poetry and Fiction

Responsible for the doctoral project: Dr. Justyna Jaguścik (doctoral thesis 2014)
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe
Project duration: September 2009 – August 2012
Doctoral committee: Prof. Dr. Andrea Riemenschnitter, Sinology, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies/URPP Asia and Europe; Prof. Dr. Bettina Dennerlein, Gender Studies/Islamic Studies, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies/URPP Asia and Europe; Prof. Dr. Lidia Kasarełło, Sinology, University of Warsaw
Research Field: Entangled Histories

Chinesiche Frauenbilder, Rollenbilder - gestern und heute


The aim of this dissertation project is to inquire how images and representations of feminity have been constructed in mainland Chinese women’s literature (poetry and fiction) and theory after 1978. Comprehensive translations of western feminist writing, together with the existing Chinese women’s movement, indigenous traditions and social practices, led to an ongoing deconstruction of various sets of images of "modern women" which had emerged in the Republic of China and in Maoist iconography. For these reasons female subjectivity and agency has been reconceptualized by female authors in a process of self questioning. Starting with female poetry of the 1980s and 1990s the female corporeal experience became the focal point of numerous author’s writing. This body turn challenged the existing highbrow literary tradition, in which corporeality had been considered vulgar and as such widely tabooed. In Chinese body writing a new semiotic space was created empowering a shift of meaning in the perception of feminity. Theoretical approaches dealing with this phenomenon triggered ongoing discussions and negotiations between heterogeneous understandings of feminity, femaleness, sex/ gender and feminism. Even today, Chinese écriture féminine remains controversial. While some of the literary critics and authorities consider it meaningless, vulgar or scandalous, in the eyes of the others its novelty gave the impulse for the vivid development of mainland Chinese literature and poetry since the 1990s. 

Detailed project description (PDF, 335 KB)

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