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Master of Arts (M.A.)

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heterosexual love, pursuit, dispelling


My thesis is going to include three sections as follows:

1.A brief biography of Zhang Jie 张洁 (1937 - ).

Zhang Jie began to publish in the post-Cultural Revolution era, and became well-known in the early 1980s for her fictional depiction of the problems of the urban intellectual women attempting to resolve conflicts between love and career, love and marriage, and ideals and reality.

The main part of this section is going to be the deep influence of her eventful fatherless life experience, traditional Chinese culture, as well as that of former Russian literary masters, especially Chekhov and Tolstoy, on her literary creation, characterized by a high sense of morality, spirituality, and social responsibility as well.

First, when Zhang Jie was only 100 days old, her father abandoned her and her mother. Lack of paternal love leads to her long-cherished hidden desire for an immaculate father in shining armor, characterized by a combination of integrity and benevolence, a lofty spiritual state of mind/mental outlook and high-ranking position. Moreover, the failure of her first marriage reinforced her longing and worship for father-like males, who become the ideal husband in her novels. That is why Zhang Jie prefers the marriage pattern of so-called lao-fu shao-qi 老夫少妻 [older husband, younger wife].

Second, Zhang Jie’s creation of her love-marriage stories have been extremely influenced by traditional Chinese culture. The Chinese traditional novels dealing with sensual love roughly fall into two categories. One, from the physical perspective, depicts the sensual rivalry with Jin Ping Mei 金瓶梅 as its representative; the other tend to present spiritual entanglement, such as the love between Jia Baoyu 贾宝玉 and Lin Daiyu林黛玉 in Hong-lou Meng 红楼梦. These two kinds of love have been incompatible just like fire and water. The former has been held in contempt by scholars, while the latter has been admired by them, to which the love depicted by Zhang Jie belongs. For one thing, Zhang Jie is widely read in literature; for another, she overvalues her own choices and emotions, which results in her easily being plunged into her past life experiences.

Finally, Zhang Jie’s emphasis on the spiritual aspect of sensual love results from the enormous influence of the former Russian literary masters, especially Chekhov. The geographical location of Russian, which crosses the Asian-European continent, causes the Russian literature to be tinged with Asian literature, and also produces some similarities between the Russian and Chinese nations in cultural values, such as an emphasis on morality. During her childhood, Zhang Jie read many Russian literary works in Chinese. Among those Russian literary masters, Chekhov has been her spiritual mentor and leader of her literary creation. We can say that the major motif of Zhang Jie’s novels, pursuit of the all-round emancipation of human beings’ spirit, is a direct successor of the main theme of Chekhov’s works – Man is supposed to live a dignified life.

2. Zhang Jie’s changing perspectives on love, specifically, sensual love and maternal love.

This section mainly focuses on the theme of love. I will examine Zhang Jie’s major writings where the dominant characters are females. They are “Love”, The Ark, Emerald (Zumulu祖母绿, 1984), Gone Is The Person Who Loved Me Most (Shijieshang zui teng wo de nage ren qu le世界上最疼我的那个人去了, 1994), and Without A Word (Wu Zi无字, 1998) – the sixth Mao Dun Literary Prize Winning (2005) masterpiece, with which Zhang Jie is most satisfied.

The assemblage of the above-mentioned works thus brings into focus on Zhang Jie with her consistent view of ideal femininity and masculinity, her change of perspective on sensual love and parental love (in her case maternal love), her unbreakable and increasingly strong mother-daughter bond, as well as her own emotional and literary growth and maturity through her creation of a colorful gallery of female images. To be exact, Zhang Jie, in her love/female texts, has expressed her persistent pursuit of the holy, near religious, heterosexual love in “Love” and Emerald, her disillusionment in heterosexual love in The Ark, her despair in heterosexual love in Gone Is The Person Who Loved Me Most, and her detachment from heterosexual love in Wu Zi. Differently put, Zhang Jie’s above-mentioned works with middle-aged women intellectuals as their heroines show her view on women from a female’s perspective and demonstrate the course of her process of searching for or looking up to ideal men, to ridiculing or looking down upon men, and to objectively evaluating or looking squarely at men while dissecting the negative traits of women, including jealousy, gossipiness, and lack of solidarity among themselves. This section is going to include four subtitles, i.e., Pursuit and persistence of holy love in “Love” and Emerald, The disillusionment in love in The Ark, The despair in love in Gone Is the Person Who Loved Me Most, and The detachment from heterosexual love in Wu Zi accordingly.

3. The main part - translation of part of Vol.1 of her three-volume masterpiece entitled Wu Zi.


First Advisor

Donald E. Gjertson