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Critical Inheritance of Chinese Traditional Culture in the Woman Warrior

Author: LiuWenRu
Tutor: XuQingHong
School: Anhui University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: The Woman Warrior traditional Chinese culture culturalauthenticity and personal interpretation criticism and inheritance
CLC: I712.074
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2012
Downloads: 149
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Maxine Hong Kingston (1940-) is the distinguished modern Chinese-American female writer. Among the works of all the living American writers, Maxine Hong Kingston’s are the most read, anthologized and taught. Her works have also been awarded various prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award of nonfiction, the American Book Award and the National Humanities Medal. With the fusion of imagination and reality, of western and eastern cultural elements, her works can hardly be classified into any existing literary genre for their individuality.Having been translated into more than twenty languages, her representative work The Woman Warrior:Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts (1976) has been the most discussed Chinese American literary works in American academic publications and meetings. On awarding her the1997National Humanities Medal, Bill Clinton, the former American president, commented on the work,"brought the Asian-American experience to life for millions of readers and inspired a new generation of writers to make their own unique voices and experiences heard". Upon its publication, the work not only topped the bestseller list for many years but also attracted broad attention from scholars and critics for its profundity in various themes. Numerous articles and research papers have been published from different angles, such as deconstruction, feminism, orientalism, post-modernism and cultural misreading. The rich traditional Chinese culture embodied in the work has aroused enormous interest among the western readers as well as heated dispute among critics. On the one hand, it is highly praised by the American mainstream literature circle and media. On the other hand, it is acutely criticized by some other Chinese American writers. They are of the opinion that Kingston intentionally distorted Chinese culture to suit white tastes. Though rebuttal of such accusation has been made, the distinct traditional Chinese culture in The Woman Warrior does reflect the writer’s attitudes. This thesis adopts the method of textual analysis, aims to give an objective assessment of Maxine’s attitude toward traditional Chinese culture by analyzing Chinese cultural elements in The Woman Warrior systematically. As a Chinese American writer, she strongly criticized feudalism and unreasonable elements in traditional Chinese culture. On the other hand, her inheritance and promotion of Chinese culture reflected in the work deserves our further study.The thesis consists of five chapters. Introduction mainly presents Maxine Hong Kingston’s literature achievements and her masterpiece The Woman Warrior. According to the literature review at home and abroad, The Woman Warrior has been studied from various cultural perspectives, but there are still research gaps. The second chapter focuses on the traditional Chinese culture revealed in The Woman Warrior, including Confucianism, folk myths and legends, customs and folklore. The fact that Kingston borrows heavily from traditional Chinese culture demonstrates that she never meant to deny her Chinese cultural identity. The third chapter analyzes Maxine Hong Kingston’s personal interpretation of traditional Chinese culture and clarifies her attitudes towards Chinese culture, which is critical inheritance. Influenced by two different cultures, Kingston acquires a more objective stance. She refuses to compromise with the feudalist remnants in traditional Chinese culture, but absorbs its quintessence into her works and thoughts. The forth chapter explores the reasons for the writer’s transfiguration of traditional Chinese culture. Objective reasons for the author’s transfiguration are Kingston’s family background, American education and social background at that time. Subjective reasons are the writer’s imagination and the writer’s purposeful transfiguration to express her personal views on certain issues. The last chapter restates the main ideas of the thesis, and then draws the conclusion that Maxine Hong Kingston dos not intentionally distort Chinese culture in The Woman Warrior. And with her efforts, the western readers and critics begin to pay more attention to Chinese culture.

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