Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The discussion of “identity” in current scholarship on modern Chinese literature is mostly centered on the political dynamics between national, cultural, and gender identity. Contemporary Chinese language novels from late 1990s to the present, however, seem to show a sense of confusion and disorientation towards one’s existence in the rapidly changing society. Among the works that address individual’s existential crisis, self-reflexive novels are particularly intriguing as they reveal a strong sense of self-doubt on part of the author, and in particular, towards one’s role as a writer in contemporary society. This dissertation investigates this sense of self-doubt by examining closely four self-reflexive novels written by writers from PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong: Qiu Huadong’s Confession at Noon (2000), Yan Lianke’s Feng Ya Song (2008), Wu He’s Thinking of Abang Kadresengan (1997), and Dung Kai-cheung’s Exploitations of the Works of Nature, Xuxu and Ruzhen (2005). In these novels, each author incorporates different narrative strategies to conduct a moral inquiry into both the meaning of writing and one’s function as a writer-intellectual in contemporary society. Despite having differing historical experience, these authors reveal a shared intellectual identity reminiscent of the traditional Chinese wenren or “literati,” who believe in the power of writing in guiding one towards a moral path. Such a shared intellectual identity indicates a common moral ground on which writers and intellectuals from the three Chinese-speaking regions can conduct a dialogue transcendent of political conflicts and cultural/historical barriers.
Chair and Committee
Lingchei Letty Chen
Marvin Howard Marcus, Rebecca Copeland, J. Dillon Brown, Zhao Ma,
Li, Fang-yu, "Writing Oneself as a Writer: Intellectual Identity and Moral Agency in Contemporary Chinese Novels" (2015). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 556.