The portrayal of women in Mao Dun's early fiction 1927-1932
It is the prevailing critical assessment of Mao Dun's early creative writing that he displays a singular insight in his portrayal of women. This thesis seeks not only to challenge this assessment by a predominantly male body of criticism but also the assumptions on which it is based, namely that an intellectual sympathy for the women’s cause necessarily implies a transcendence of the patriarchal attitudes with which society is imbued. The major short stories and novellas written between 1927 and 1932 are analysed systematically to identify Mao Dun's underlying attitudes towards women. His portrayal of women is assessed from the following perspectives:~ his autobiographical accounts of his encounters with women in his political and personal life and his deliberate association of his female comrades with his creative inspiration;- traditional Chinese perceptions of women and gender roles as these are manifested in the classical tradition;-- Mao Dun's numerous articles and essays on the women's question written during the nineteen twenties and his work in the women's section of the Party in Shanghai;- Mao Dun's attempt to reconcile his conflicting sympathies for feminism and socialism. This thesis relies for its methodology on Western feminist criticism. While the approach is maintained, in its application to the context of early twentieth century China, its eurocentrism in terms of cultural assumptions and perceptions of gender has been replaced by a definition of Chinese values. Since a fundamental prerequisite, of feminist criticism is the assessment of the writer in his/her own cultural context, a historical survey of the portrayal of women in traditional literature is provided to serve as a standard against which to measure Mao Dun’s portrayal.