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The life and works of Zhang Ailing : a critical study Hoyan, Carole H.F.

Abstract

This dissertation is a study of Zhang Ailing's life and works and aims to provide a comprehensive overview of her literary career. Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang %. jf; 5£% 1920-1995) is a significant figure in modern Chinese literary history, not only because of her outstanding artistry and modernist vision, but also because of her diverse contributions to the course of Chinese literature. The study follows the conventional chronological order of her life and is divided into eight chapters, together with an introduction and a conclusion. The first and the second chapters examine how Zhang's family experiences and wartime impressions contributed to the formation of her anti-romantic vision and how they influenced her subsequent creative writings. The third and fourth chapters analyze the significance and implications of her early works, written before she embarked on her literary career, and of her English-language cultural critiques and film reviews published in The Twentieth Century. Chapters five and six focus on the two major genres of Zhang's creative writing: short stories and informal essays. Her short stories, with their exploration o f the individual psyche in a modern urban context and their sense of disengagement and irony, can be considered as one of the earliest manifestation of modernism in China. Her essays show a strong sensuality and sympathetic understanding, as well as an identification with femininity and with everyday life. Showing a similarity to other modern Chinese women writers in her concern for detail, Zhang sets herself off by a uniquely witty and humorous tone. Her use of poetic diction and splendid imagery also serves as a striking contrast to the insipid style of most of her contemporaries. Chapter seven traces the development of Zhang's novels, which in turn reflects changes in her life and personal psychology. Chapter eight examines Zhang's career as a screenplay writer, translator and academic scholar. The concluding chapter deals with Zhang's contribution to the course of modern Chinese literature, through an investigation of her legacy in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China.

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