The Female Rewriting of Grand History: The Tanci Fiction Jing zhong zhuan
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This dissertation has examined the tanci fiction Jing zhong zhuan, or A Biography of Dedication and Loyalty, authored by a gentry woman writer Zhou Yingfang in the late nineteenth century. I argue that by adapting the well-known patriotic story of General Yue Fei in Chinese history, Zhou Yingfang suggests new directions in grand historical narrative in her own voice and from her own perspective. Negotiating the writing conventions of earlier legends, she turns the stereotyped masculine image of Yue Fei into a hero in both public and domestic settings. In addition, she adds many detailed episodes from Yue Fei's family life and portrays virtuous women in a chaotic historical period, paralleling the conventional narration of wars and politics. Although often (mis)read as a text that inspires nationalism, Jing zhong zhuan actually redefines significant values in late imperial China, including the importance of family and the complex relation between filial piety and political loyalty. The tanci also enriches the notions of female virtues, expanding them from chastity to beauty, learning and management skills. Employing tanci, a unique genre that is closely associated with and quite dominated by women, Zhou Yingfang demonstrates her gendered consciousness in relationship to late nineteenth-century Confucian family dynamics and her self-representation and literary engagement within grand historical narratives. My dissertation sheds light on the dynamics between women's writing and historiography, as well as on the discourses of patriotism and emerging nationalism at the turn of the twentieth-century in China.