The double -voiced feminine discourses: A comparative study of women writers in modern Chinese literature and modern American literature

Shunzhu Wang, Purdue University

Abstract

This dissertation is a comparative study of Ding Ling's “Miss Sophie's Diary” with Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God , Wang Anyi's Love in the Barren Mountain with Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth. The purpose of this study is to deconstruct the feminine discourse in the two literary traditions: calling into question its purity; demonstrating how it manifests a double-voicedness (subverting but at the same time recapitulating the patriarchal definition of woman); and examining how it contains voices that are historically, culturally, and/or racially constructed. ^ Chapter One presents a brief historical survey of the literary traditions in both countries in order to contextualize the two respective feminine traditions and female authors selected for comparison. Chapter Two compares Wang Anyi's Love in the Barren Mountain (1986) and Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth (1905). In both stories, heterosexual love is presented as a potential avenue of agency for the development of the female self, and a man in this relationship is only the “other,” a referent point that serves to confirm the female self. This male “other,” however, is presented as the indispensable instrument without which the female “self” cannot be defined. Thus, Wang Anyi and Edith Wharton present us with a double-voiced feminist discourse, which, while revising the patriarchal definition of self and other, also perpetuates it. Chapter Three explores Ding Ling's “Miss Sophie's Diary” (1928) and Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), both of which see man as a vehicle as well as a threat to female self-realization. The heterosexual relationship attests to the “awakening” of the feminine self but eventually turns into an obstacle that hinders its further development and therefore must be abandoned in the end. This stance of female independence, however, does not make Ding's or Hurston's feminist discourses any purer, for, like Wang's and Wharton's, theirs are also gender-based and thus inevitably double-voiced, muffled by the patriarchal language through which it is expressed. ^

Degree

Ph.D.

Advisors

Major Professor: Robert Paul Lamb, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|Literature, Asian|Women's Studies|Literature, American

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