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The Comparative Study of Feminine Space in the Novels of Zhang Ailing and Wang Anyi

Author: SunShaoRong
Tutor: LiYePing
School: Shandong Normal University
Course: Contemporary Chinese Literature
Keywords: Zhang Ailing Wang Anyi feminine space comparison
CLC: I207.42
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2011
Downloads: 427
Quote: 3
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Zhang Ailing and Wang Anyi are both great fiction masters in Chinese contemporary literature history. In recent years, novels written by Zhang Ailing and Wang Anyi have received a wide range of researches. The two writers’ names often come up simultaneously to both critics and readers for their common perspective in their literary works. Athough a prevailing "Zhang Wang comparison" has always existed among critics, the comparison of the resonance and discrepancies of their novels from the feminine space perspective is still rare. Based on Edward W.Soja’s "the third space theory", this thesis divides feminine space into two dimensions: the realistically material space and virtually spiritual space. On basis of the fictional texts and the writers themselves, using the approach of parallel study of comparative literature, the thesis puts the comparison into the theoretical framework of gender and space. By investigating the resonance and discrepancies of two novels, the paper aims to make a comparative study of Zhang Ailing’s and Wang Anyi’s novels from three dimensions and tries to exploit their significance in feminine writings.The first dimension: the material space constructed by daily life. By depicting women’s daily routines, Zhang Ailing and Wang Anyi inspected the situations of women’s survival with self-conscious feminine awareness and humane concern. In Zhang Ailing’s novel, women’s daily routines occurred in the confined and choking old mansions. Women of the old families were restricted by the decayed male-centered culture. They were in turn reproduced by the choking space, became self-enclosed and self-imprisoned, and consequently became victims of the traditional gender culture. By contrast, Wang Anyi in her novel depicted women’s lively and colorful daily life in the open alleys, where the space was open and solid. In the context of violent social transition and under the suffering of life twists and turns, the ordinary women haunting the alleys in Shanghai, being trifling, common, perseverant and realistic, rebuilt their broken home on the heavily damaged ruins. The second dimension: the spiritual space on basis of gender relations. Both Zhang Ailing’s and Wang Anyi’s novels refered to gender relations and considered women in the context of gender relations. Both of them revealed the tension and contradiction of sexual relations from the aspects of material pursuit and physiological desires.The third dimension: the attribution of the discrepancies in feminine living space. Because of different times’ evolution, life experiences and cultural appeals, Zhang Ailing’s writing concerned more chaotic and personal life experience, which was strongly subjective, focusing on describing the women in the old family in history, revealed the relationship between culture and female’s tragedy, reflected more aspects of cultural criticism with historical depth. While Wang Anyi stressed the rational creation of writing, focused on the description of small humble alley during the transition point of modern society, as well as the the civilian population of women who simply cared about daily necessities of life. Wang Anyi explored women from social perspectives with profound social dimension.By deeply exploiting and concerning about feminine space in different times, the two writers rationally analyzed women’s living conditions, honestly acknowledged women’s desires, concentrated their attentions on disclosing women’s life, personality and their deep inner world with strong modern consciousness and meticulously revealed women’s weakness by nature and their defects in personality and resultedly, demonstrated the inspiring and alarming femine living space in modern society. From Zhang Ailing to Wang Anyi, Chinese feminine living space experienced half a century’s historical evolution. This development of women’s living space reflects the difficult process of the women’s growing in social life, at the same time declares that the future of women’s spatial development lies in nonstop breakthrouths. On one hand, women themselves should break through their own limitations and weaknesses, on the other hand they should break through the deep-rooted male-centrism cultural system.

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