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UNTAMED HEARTS: EROS AND SUICIDE IN LATE IMPERIAL CHINESE FICTION

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In Chinese fiction there are heroines who use suicide as a vehicle to convey to eternity the strength of their passions, from love to hatred, from jealousy to thirst for revenge. The present paper is an exploration of late imperial literary representations which depict women's suicide as an act of passion and self-reassertion: this act, rather than being constructed as defeat in the face of adversities, a response to abuse suffered, or as a last resort to preserve chastity, is presented as a path of independence that shows these female characters not as virtuous martyrs or victims of an unjust patriarchal system, but as passionate agents of free will. These sources challenge the assumption that women's suicide in Ming and Qing fictional sources is primarily related to chastity. In this sense, they are useful in furthering understanding of the complex ways in which legal and moral mandates around the issue of women's suicide could be resisted, absorbed, and ignored in late imperial vernacular fiction.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica

10.1163/156852601750123008
/content/journals/10.1163/156852601750123008
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/content/journals/10.1163/156852601750123008
2001-06-01
2017-08-23

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