TitleWoman and nihil
NameZhu, Ping (author), Wang, Ban (chair), Walker, Janet (internal member), SONG, WEIJIE (internal member), Liu, Xun (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Nihilism in literature,
Women--China--Social life and customs--20th century,
DescriptionMy dissertation examines how the feminine was invoked as a representational strategy to cope with the nihilism lying at the heart of Chinese modernity in the period from 1915 to 1936. As a revolution on both the individual level and the social level, Chinese modernity began with and continued in crisis. One imperative of Chinese modernity was to ceaselessly bring excitement and passion to the individual, urging and enticing the latter to join the nationalist project. However, this idealist endeavor demanded more power than the individual could summon within a coherent and rational consciousness. The individual was forced to confront decentering or shattering experiences of revolution, which were impossible to represent. Therefore, the nihil lied at the heart of modern Chinese subjectivity. In the West, nihilism emerged as a psychological effect to the decline of belief; but in May Fourth China, nihilism emerged a response to the belief in a heightened spirit that is incommensurate with any practical goals. However, the very nihilistic experience had to be disguised or shielded to ensure the purity and sublimity of the revolution. The trope of woman was employed as a metonymy for the nihil, which gave birth to a “shadow subject” (an unconscious agency of the subject) that was different from the ideal masculine and rational one. On the one hand, the projection of nihil onto woman further alienated and mystified the feminine; on the other hand, it empowered the feminine and incorporated woman into the mainstream of revolutionary discourse. Therefore, not only male writers used the representation of woman to overcome the traumatic nihilistic experience in their subjectivity, some female writers also integrated the nihil in their self-representation as a strategy to empower themselves. In my dissertation, I engage myself in a re-reading of selective modern Chinese literary works. Combining the theoretical strength of post-structuralism, existentialism, and feminism, my dissertation aims to deconstruct and reconstruct subjectivity, narrative, and revolutionary discourse in modern China. The discovery of the relation between woman and nihil provides a new perspective to reexamine the construction of modern subjectivity, as well as the gender relations in Chinese modernity.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Ping Zhu
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.