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Estrangement: A Possible Lens through which to Understand the Femininity of Contemporary Chinese Intellectual Women

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The paper analyzes the femininity of Chinese intellectual women through reference to the historically and culturally significant concept of estrangement. The paper explores what it manes to be a contemporary Chinese intellectual woman with an emphasis on how popular cultural images of Chinese intellectual women articulated particular, historically-conditioned tensions. The paper focuses on the theoretical construction of “estrangement,” an important concept in the fields of psychoanalysis, socialist feminism and French feminism. My discussion of “estrangement” centers on the way in which the femininity of intellectual women is constructed, in particular, the degree to which they are depicted as adhering to or becoming estranged from the norms for feminine behavior. I focus on the female writer Huang Beijia’s novellas, published between 1981 and 1994. The paper concludes that estrangement constitutes a haunting motif that is used to represent/understand Chinese intellectual women in the contemporary context and that the contemporary intellectual woman’s predicament is, in turn, a telling motif for understanding historical changes in Chinese gender relations.


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