China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: Arguably the most popular and least respected genre, romance encompasses love stories that target a largely female readership. Romance novels encapsulate the ever-shifting understandings of love and shape how we perceive and practice love in particular societies. Moreover, romance novels are never exclusively about love per se but provide themselves as a window onto a whole variety of social, economic, and political issues centered upon love as well as women’s struggle to articulate their concerns, desires, and visions.
The four papers that constitute this panel attempt to explore the complexity of Chinese romance tradition from the seventeenth century to the present. Reading the 1658 Ping Shan Leng Yan (Four Talents), Mengjun Li argues that cai (literary talent) rather than qing (emotions) or de (virtues) became the central theme of this “scholar-beauty” novel in early Qing and the foundational principle in forming individual and collective identities for men and women. Yang Lai argues that the established woman writer Bing Xin (1900-1999) endeavored to build a pre-Oedipal mother-daughter relationship and should be positioned within the female-female romance tradition in modern East Asia. Xi Tian’s paper examines the surging controversy over surrogacy captured in male-male romance written by and for women, which showcases women’s anxiety over the potential exploitation of their reproductive labor. Zhange Ni studies the 2020 novel Xiao Mogu (Little Mushroom), a hybrid of romance and sci-fi that stages the contestation between the alterity-annihilating Chinese nationalism and feminist new materialism envisioning posthuman subjects and interspecies interdependencies.
Virtual Paper Presenter: Mengjun Li – University of Puget Sound
Virtual Paper Presenter: Yang Lai – Ohio University
Virtual Paper Presenter: Xi Tian – Bucknell University
Virtual Paper Presenter: Zhange Ni – Virginia Tech