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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Crisis of emasculation and the restoration of patriarchy in the fiction of Chinese contemporary male writers Zhang Xianliang, Mo Yan and Jia Pingwa Fang, Jincai


This dissertation is about Chinese masculinity. It will raise the issue of Chinese masculinity as it became problematic in the mid-1980s, the first time in the twothousand- year history of Chinese literature, that problems such as male identity, sexuality, and masculinity were seriously formulated and discussed. This study adopts the methods of a feminist reading and a close reading to reexamine works of three well-known contemporary male writers: Zhang Xianliang, Mo Yan and Jia Pingwa in the ideological/cultural context of the resurgence of Confucian patriarchy during the mid- 1980s to the mid-1990s in China. I will provide a detailed and dynamic analysis of how the contemporary male enterprise of reconstructing masculinity heavily relies on women—either by programming women into the author's step-by-step process of reconstructing lost masculinity for the protagonist or by putting women back to their old place prescribed by Confucian patriarchy. By deepening our understanding of Chinese men and women historically, culturally, ideologically and psychologically, and by constructing a dialogue between the past and the present, this study attempts to demonstrate that ideal masculinity in China as defined two thousand years ago is still alive, and serves as a major paradigm of masculinity for modern Chinese intellectuals. The re-examinations of each of the three works will be structured around the following three topics: (1) the major source of men's feelings of powerlessness and feminization (2) the ideological framework from which their ideal concept of masculinity is reconstructed; and (3) how these frameworks establish their gendered position and affect their views and feelings toward women; and thus how they program women's roles into the construction or restoration of their masculinity. My research reveals a stable structure to authors' ideals of masculinity consisting of four constant elements: power is the key attribute in defining Chinese masculinity; hierarchy is the structure within which ideal masculinity is constructed and consolidated; the state, (including politics and nationalism), male intellectuals and women are three indispensable, intertwined dimensions within which male intellectuals maneuver to bargain for their masculinity; and the philosophical/ideological past is the inexhaustible source of inspiration and justification for restoring lost masculinity.

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