Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

East Asian Languages and Culture: Chinese

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



My dissertation examines Chinese popular romances produced and consumed in the Japanese colonized and occupied regions, including Taiwan, Manchukuo, and Shanghai, during the Second Sino-Japanese War. I investigate the complex relationships between emotion, representation, and consumption vis--vis wartime discourses and sociopolitical turmoil. Through extensive archival research in Taiwan, China and Japan, I (re)discovered and reevaluated five important wartime popular romance writers and their works. In addition to fiction, sequels, film and stage play adaptations, Japanese translation and readers/viewers responses all together create the cultural phenomena of the popular romance genre. In this dissertation I ask the following questions: How are emotion and love articulated vis--vis wartime politics? How does the popular romance genre engage with its environment? How could this genre demarcate, blur, cross or reinforce the boundaries between eroticism and patriotism, the individual and the state, and the private and the public? I argue that even though the wartime politics dictate that private emotions be devoted to the public needs (i.e., the War) and hence individual interests should be subjugated to the collective, Chinese writers and readers pursued individuality through the discourses of romantic love and the devotion to the opposite sex rather than to the nation or to the colonizer. Thus, paradoxically, popular romance, even though a mass production, is a collective channel for reaffirming individual existence under political pressure.

Chapter 1 examines Xu Kunquan (1907-1954) and Japanese translation of his novel in colonial Taiwan. This chapter discusses how romantic love story is used to channel the emotions during negotiating between morality and decadence and to seek spiritual transcendence under political pressure. Chapter 2 discusses Wu Mansha (1912-2005), a Chinese alien in colonial Taiwan and how an entertainment genre written in Sinitic languages promoted Japanese Imperialism, as well as how the author used this genre as a tactic to survive wartime politics. Chapter 3 analyzes Mu Rugai (1884-1961) from Manchukuo and how he used the popular romance to vent his political resentment and to deconstruct the Japanese ideology of Manchukuo as utopia. Chapter 4 analyzes the melodramatic imagination of victimhood in wartime Shanghai. The victimization and feminization of the male protagonist in Qin Shouous (1908-1993) novel Begonia and its film and stage play adaptations is on the one hand an allegory of Chinas wartime status. On the other hand, the excessive, sensational depiction of victimhood in a tragic love story releases the repressed energy of the audience in Occupied Shanghai. Chapter 5 discusses Eileen Chang (1920-1995) and the consumption of femininity in wartime Shanghai. The literary persona of Eileen Chang is constructed as the combination of movie star, a new cultural phenomenon in twentieth century China, and courtesan culture from late imperial China. Through imagining their love/hate relationship with this literary star, the audience pursued femininity as opposed the masculine wartime politics.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Lingchei Robert . Chen Hegel

Committee Members

Rebecca Copeland, Diane Lewis, Zhao Ma, Marvin Marcus,


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