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"Liaozhai Zhiyi" reinterpreted from a psychoanalytic point of view

Rui Yang, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation attempts to open up new possibilities in the interpretation of Liaozhai Zhiyi sk45, the criticism of which in the past four decades has been predominantly political (Marxist) and biographical. My interpretation of Liaozhai draws on four psychoanalytic theories: Freudian (also ego psychology), Jungian, feminist and Winnicottian. In chapters two through six, my discussion of thirty-three full-length Liaozhai stories is guided by Jung's conceptualization of the collective unconscious and the individuation process. The intricate and dynamic relations between human and supernatural characters are reimagined as those between the conscious mind and a group of Jungian archetypes (the shadow, the anima, the mother, etc.). In chapter seven, my discussion of "Feng Sanniang" sk45, a unique Liaozhai story in which a young woman is helped in magic ways by a female fox spirit, questions Jung's animus archetype. My interpretation of it draws on Nancy Chodorow's theory on the development of the feminine psyche in relation to the preoedipal and oedipal mothers and the oedipal father. Next, my reading of several Liaozhai stories emphasizes a hidden theme (male Oedipus complex) and some defense maneuvers (splitting, displacement, projection, regression, denial, sublimation, etc.). Finally my interpretation of "Yingning" sk45 is guided by Winnicott's theorizing of what happens between self and other in infancy. Instead of fragmenting the story, this reading brings all characters into comparison and sheds light on otherwise puzzling descriptions. With this example, I try to demonstrate that the psychoanalytic approach tends to require the critic to treat a literary work as an organic whole and examine details of the language to look for a convergence of themes. In my dissertation I argue that fantasy allows Pu Songling sk30 freedom to explore and portray what was repressed socially, personally and politically. The stories may be perceived as dreamwork to illustrate and resolve problems of the self, and psychoanalytic approaches may reveal symbols, paradoxes, recurring themes and unconscious fantasies which are embedded in the texts and so far have not been adequately explored.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Asian literature

Recommended Citation

Yang, Rui, ""Liaozhai Zhiyi" reinterpreted from a psychoanalytic point of view" (1991). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9207479.