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Female Relations: Voiceless Women in “Liuyi jie” and “Zhufu”

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Although the notion of the new woman in modern China has received much scholarly consideration, her usually illiterate rural sister has not received nearly as much critical attention. With the exception of Lu Xun’s iconic Xianglin sao—from his 1924 story “Zhufu” (The New Year’s Sacrifice)—almost no depictions of traditional women have been critically appraised in current scholarship. This seems unfortunate when such women can be considered to be both the opposite of and the raw material from which the new woman would spring. This article seeks to begin to address this question by juxtaposing Xianglin sao with another more unfamiliar May Fourth depiction of a rural woman: Liuyi jie (from Bing Xin’s story of the same name). By situating Liuyi jie and Xianglin sao firmly within the family structure, the resulting comparison of both stories reveals the structural obstacles that inhibited traditional women from becoming fully active subjects in the new China. The comparison also shows how the May Fourth project established a new woman, one capable of ushering in a newly modern China, whose very existence relies on the discursive silencing of old-style women unable to make this modern transition.

Affiliations: 1: University of Colorado Boulder


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