Feminist Writing in Remapping the Territory of Literature
Speech given by Lan Xin， at The Second Workshop on World-the Territory Rewritten by Literature
at Beijing Normal University，17,11,2017
Respected teachers, friends, ladies and gentlemen:
Today's topic brings me to the concept of Axial Age, introduced by German philosopher Karl Jaspers in his book The Origin and Goal of History, published in 1949, characterizing the period of ancient history from about the 8th to the 3rd century BC.According to Jaspers, new ways of thinking appeared in India (Sankymuni), China (Confucius, Mencius, Laotze) and the Greco-Roman world (Aristotle, Plato, Socrates) which ran the gamut of all possibilities in religion and philosophy. These representative figures emerge almost in a striking parallel development, without any obvious direct cultural contact between all of the participating Eurasian cultures.
Jaspers deems the pre-Jesus 500 hundred years as of pivotal importance and the first crop of Eurasian sages harvested, at the fountainhead of human culture, Incidentally they were mapping for the first time the territory of literature. We are indeed lucky descendants of these sages and thinkers as we are meant to be civilized and mentally enriched fed upon their writings and teachings.
Among the host of world classics that has been my spiritual guide in life and in writing, ,Jane Eyre, a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë has been pre-eminent. The book follows the emotions and experiences of its eponymous heroine,from her adolescence to womanhood and her love for Mr. Rochester. What engages my lifelong attention is the awakening of the heroine's sense of femininity in the evolution of her moral and spiritual sensibility in the teeth of prevalent social prejudices of a male dominated society.
Justifiably a novel ahead of its time ,given the strong willed character of Jane and the novel's exploration of proto-feminism, Emily Bronte breaks the ice in the feminist genre for the wide reception of Pride and Prejudice, Gone with the winds, The Thorn Bird, among others that follow in the coming century. I should emphasize individualistic heroines such as Jane Eyre and Scarlett, "Meggie" Cleary have been powerful icons in triggering social changes in male chauvinistic cultures such as China and other similar gender repressive societies .May 4th Movement in 1919 has been proven a watershed for culture and literature alike, old and new, and the truly feminine literature in China in particular.
The first wave of feminist awareness has seen emergence of China's Emily Bronte writers such as Bin Xin, Lu Yin, Lin Shuhua, Ding Ling ,to be succeeded by more refined and sophisticated novelists like Wang Anyi and Tielin who all share a common goal: to write and define the essence of being Chinese women and further the grand cause of political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes in China This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to such opportunities for men.
The feminist advocacy varies from age to age, country to country and in the era of globalization women mostly come into their own ,being fully autonomous and independent in workplace, family, dating out and wedding. Literature of similar tone of mind and thought has boomed and won favor especially with women readers, an indication that the traditional domain of literature has been substantially expanded.
A young woman writer myself, it comes natural for me to identify problems besetting my fellow sisters in career, dating and marriage and my writing aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining women's social roles and lived experience; I should be deemed socially committed as I do hope to help my generation one way or another in fostering their feminist sensibility and caring about their spiritual growth. They do need assistance in mastering the challenges of work, career and intimacy to be their better selves.
What is the true purpose in life in an increasingly superficial and mechanical world? What do women really want? What makes a good lover and a truly successful professional in the same time? These are issues that confront both women and women writers. I deem it obligatory to offer some tentative answers by unraveling the mystery of relationships and aiding my readers on their journey to fulfill their true purpose and to be authentically feminine.
translated by Hunter(huang shaozheng)independent translator