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Failed modern girls in early-twentieth-century China

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Chapter Summary

Both Zhang Henshui, the king of social romantic fiction of Republican China, and Wang Dulu, produced fascinating stories about lower-class young urban women who are embroiled in the city?s modernization/Westernization. Although in their telling, these girls? upward movement to the middle-class Modern Girl status often ends in frustration and defeat, this chapter contends that it makes less sense to dismiss them as old-style women or as remnants of the old society than to see them as what they are: failed Modern Girls. The story of the failed Modern Girl is significant for the anxieties about new class formations that may have been articulated for many an ordinary reader of the early twentieth century. The failed Modern Girl?s failure is attributable at least in part to the self-adjusting modalities of patriarchy. They intimate that the Modern Girl is constantly an unfinished and/or undone project in a world of evolving gender subordination.

Keywords: early twentieth century China; failed Modern Girls; gender subordination; Westernization



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