This essay examines Marguerite Duras’s Moderato cantabile (1958) and Wang Anyi’s The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (1995) to propose a feminine melancholy manifested in these novels. It argues that the work of Duras and Wang functions allegorically, revealing a tension between the globalizing present (France during the period from 1945 to 1973 known as the Trente glorieuses and China during the period following 1989 known as the Post–New Era) and the traumatic past (the German Occupation of France and the Tiananmen Square incident in China). Whereas Walter Benjamin draws his theory of allegory from the male perspective of Charles Baudelaire, this essay initiates the possibility of a feminine melancholy and a feminine allegory. This melancholic feminine allegory reveals a new conception of time and a new focus on aural perception, the eternal return, and the resounding cry of trauma reverberating in the era of globalization.
Historical Melancholy, Feminine Allegory
erin shevaugn schlumpf is a visiting assistant professor of film studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and the Film Division of the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University. Her work focuses on aesthetic responses to historical trauma as well as queer and feminist counter-narratives. Her current book project, Melancholy, Ambivalence, Exhaustion: National Trauma and Global Postmodernism, contrasts the different ways in which post–Occupation France and post–Tiananmen Square China dealt with their respective moments of national trauma and burgeoning globalization through film and literary representation in order to reveal an asynchronous language of trauma, an imaginative reckoning with the past and the present.
Erin Shevaugn Schlumpf; Historical Melancholy, Feminine Allegory. differences 1 December 2016; 27 (3): 20–44. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-3696619
Download citation file: