Chinese Women Writers and Modern Print Culture

by Megan M. Ferry


"A meticulous achievement of nearly twenty-year research ... Ferry has convincingly depicted how print media in twentieth-century China constructed both gender and identity, which, to a certain extent, tempered and regulated a woman writer’s physical body as well as her intellectual authority. ... Ferry goes in depth into a great variety of newspapers and periodicals, including both serious literary publications and tabloids. She also makes good use of numerous visual images to illustrate the contradictory position of women writers as both consumers and commodities. Particularly in the case of Ding Ling’s disappearance and reappearance in public, Ferry exemplifies how renowned left-wing intellectuals almost created a 'reading method' to connect the woman author and her texts by (mis)interpreting her images. Another example of her detailed archival research is that Ferry notices the woman writer Chen Hengzhe started to write vernacular fiction even before Lu Xun, though the latter took all credits for this revolutionary new genre, leading a pioneering fashion in literature style (p. 85). ... The approach of gender that Ferry picks is quite innovative [and her] criticism of the 'women category' is indeed thought-provoking. She carefully compares 'modern girl' and 'new woman,' concepts that are often mixed without sufficient consideration. ... make inspiring discussions and arguments even more meaningful at present. ... Her illustration on gender consciousness and protocols in the print industry since 1980 reminds us of how state-led propaganda attempted to regain control of the discourse on reproductivity in just recent years and make us rethink how women writers address their own physical presence in the male-dominated literary tradition past and present." —China Review International

"In Chinese Women Writers and Modern Print Culture, Professor Megan Ferry provides a meticulous analysis of the gendered spaces that modern Chinese publishers, editors, critics, propagandists, and policy makers created for the work of female authors, both before and after the Communist revolution of 1949. This detailed study of the textual and visual mechanisms that bring gender into being makes an important and original contribution to our understanding of print culture, both in China and beyond." —Michel Hockx, Professor of Chinese Literature and Director of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies, University of Notre Dame

"Investigating the intricate relationship between the politics of culture, economics, and print media, Megan Ferry discloses the subtle gender ideologies of the paratext, or the way in which the textual and visual environment, of the early and mid-twentieth century in China defined and demeaned the intellectual contributions of women. This illuminating study looks beyond the usual suspects of famous texts and authors, weaving an insightful tapestry that exposes the complex elements inscribing women into social life." —Wendy Larson, Professor Emerita, University of Oregon

"This superbly researched and analytically sophisticated book marks an important intervention into studies of women’s subjectivity in twentieth-century China, as well as for literary and media studies more generally. Ferry demonstrates the significance of interrogating the ways in which both historical and contemporary understandings of women’s writings and cultural expression are framed by tropes and structures of gender differentiation in media, literary criticism, and capitalism/consumption. With this insightful, thought-provoking study, Ferry provides us with a much-needed nuanced understanding of the complicated interactions between conceptualizations of women’s empowerment and emancipation with the structural conditions in which empowerment is expressed. After reading this book, many scholars, myself included, will find themselves rethinking the terms on which we accord public recognition to women (as) writers." —Tina Mai Chen, Department Head and Professor of History, University of Manitoba


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