This article explores the representation of homosociality between two marginalized female characters in “Xialihe” (夏麗赫) (1978), a novella by Sinophone Malaysian writer Shang Wanyun (商晚) (1952-1995). Although some scholars have suggested that the writer’s preoccupation with the intimate world of women started only in the 1980s, I argue that “Xialihe” already highlights issues such as female intimacy and women’s social marginalization. The text represents, therefore, a link between her earlier nativist production and her later more feminist approach. Additionally, I contend that, writing from a marginal position at the periphery of Malaysia’s national literary system and from a doubly-conservative environment (Muslim-majority Malaysia and the local Chinese community), by means of sensual descriptions and dialogical innuendos, the author bravely blurs the line which separates female bonding from homoaffectivity, thus leading the reader to question the real nature of the relationship between the Chinese narrator and her Malay friend. Lastly, through the analysis of a novella by one of the leading Sinophone Malaysian female writers of the twentieth century, this article fills a gap in Western scholarship, where studies on Shang Wanyun and her oeuvre are virtually non-existent.
"Female Bonding and Marginality in Shang Wanyun’s novella “Xialihe” (1978)."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
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