Because the theories of Chinese modernity are mainly organized around a masculine norm and pay insufficient attention to the specificity of women's lives and experiences, it is of great significance to carry out research on women's complex and changing relationships to the political, philosophical, and cultural legacies of Chinese modernity. This essay explores the relationship of women to Chinese modernity through a close reading of canonical texts from modern Chinese drama. The transformations of women in Chinese spoken plays during the first half of the twentieth century reflect the complex experiences of Chinese women in their search for modernity. The Nora figures in Chinese problem plays are symbols of individualism and subjectivism. The women in Cao Yu's plays, whose education is informed by feminist ideas, become subjects of their desires for consumption and love. The female fighters in revolutionary drama further deconstruct the patriarchy of gender, and their stories influenced the new development of gender politics in modern China. In general, the discourses of women's liberation were refashioned on the different stages of modern Chinese drama in parallel with the development of modern Chinese society. The essay suggests that women were actually heroines of Chinese modernity.
Skip Nav Destination
Chengzhou He; Women and the Search for Modernity: Rethinking Modern Chinese Drama. Modern Language Quarterly 1 March 2008; 69 (1): 45–60. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-2007-024
Download citation file: