Self and gender: Women, philosophy, and poetry in pre-imperial and early imperial China
Posted on 16. Aug, 2010 by James Miller
|Title||Self and gender: Women, philosophy, and poetry in pre-imperial and early imperial China|
|Year of Publication||2008|
|ISBN Number||0549849033, 9780549849032|
|Keywords||Asian literature, Comparative literature|
This Dissertation explores notions of the self in philosophical texts and historical narratives in the Warring States period and the Han Dynasty, and expressions of the self in women's poetry of the Han and the Six Dynasties. I argue that in early Chinese philosophical thought the self is an interrelated individual who improves oneself and seeks spontaneity. Women are not excluded from the project of self-cultivation. In their poems they write from their unique perspectives and experiences, and present us with divergent life stories and aspirations. When those women poets are confronted with the tradition of representations of women appropriated by male poets, they endeavor to speak in their own voices. Among the four chapters of my dissertation, the first one begins with refuting Western perceptions of China as "selfless," and then examines notions of the self in philosophical texts of the Warring States period. Chapter 2 discusses women's self-cultivation in philosophical texts and historical narratives of the Warring States and the Han Dynasty. I attempt to find evidences for the possibility of women's practicing self-cultivation. Subsequently I take up the earliest extant work of another genre, didactic text written by and for women. Chapter 3 turns to literary constructions of the self in women's poetry of the Han Dynasty. I examine how these women poets depict their self-portraits, and express their feelings from their different roles. Chapter 4 begins with a discussion of notions of the self in the Wei-Jin xuanxue (metaphysics), and goes on to deal with literary representations of women in the Shishuo xinyu (A New Account of Tales of the World). Women are portrayed as outspoken, independent, strong, and self-confident. During this period, images of women and female voices are constructed by male poets in the gongti shi (palace style poetry). I compare works on the same topic by male and female poets to examine how women poets establish their own voices.