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Cho, Hwei-Cheng (1999) Chu Tien-wen: Writing "decadent" fiction in contemporary Taiwan. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028803

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Abstract

In recent years, literature in Taiwan has developed dynamically in a context of rapid social change and intense debate in intellectual circles over ideology. Chu Tien-wen (1956- ) is the eldest daughter of the most notable literary family in Taiwan; the principal founder of the "Three-Three" literary coterie in the late 1970s and the most successful screenwriter of the Taiwanese New Cinema in the 1980s. However, as yet no book-length study has been devoted to the works of this important figure in the contemporary Taiwan literary scene. The present thesis is a study of Chu T'ien-wen's work up to 1996, with chapters arranged broadly in chronological order. It traces the formation of her early sinocentric, utopian political and social beliefs, and their modification in the light of her increasing contact with Taiwan-centred Nativist ideas. This study endeavours to address the many facets of Chu's writing identity (Chinese tradition - Taiwan identity - Feminism - Creative writing), and examine how her works reflect her maturing understanding under the influence of changes in society. Forced to re-evaluate her ideas by the clash between her vision of Confucian Chinese ideals and the development of Taiwan-centred Nativism, Chu broke through to her unique style in Splendour of the End of the Century, a collection of stories which won immediate critical acclaim both for its unconventional subject matter and its unorthodox style. Since then Chu, in writing about the moral and spiritual decadence of modern urban life in The Notebook of a Desolate Man, has maintained her basic belief in the role of the shih, but, at the same time, she has yielded to the inevitability of destruction of traditional values. Nonetheless, her writing on previously unmentionable subjects has broadened the parameters of what is acceptable in literature. This study will demonstrate that in writing her "decadent" fiction, and through her depiction of sensual refinement, Chu showed that social changes in Taiwan had forced her to accept the fact that Confucian thought has irretrievably lost its primacy in intellectual life, and that her original utopian vision is no longer attainable. As she accepts democracy more, she has had to leave behind her early ideal, be more pragmatic, and become a "decadent" writer philosophically.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028803
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:02
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/28803

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