Eileen Chang

Eileen Chang: Romancing Languages, Cultures and Genres

Edited by Kam Louie
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Eileen Chang
    Book Description:

    Eileen Chang (1920–1995) is arguably the most perceptive writer in modern Chinese literature. She was one of the most popular writers in 1940s Shanghai, but her insistence on writing about individual human relationships and mundane matters rather than revolutionary and political movements meant that in mainland China, she was neglected until very recently. Outside the mainland, her life and writings never ceased to fascinate Chinese readers. There are hundreds of works about her in the Chinese language but very few in other languages.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-885-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Eileen Chang: A Life of Conflicting Cultures in China and America
    (pp. 1-14)
    Kam Louie

    Eileen Chang [Zhang Ailing 張愛玲] was born into a large Shanghai family in 1920 and died alone in Los Angeles in 1995. In accordance with the terms of her will, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind. Since her death, Chang’s life and writings have been closely scrutinized and her literary work has extended its reach through translations and screen adaptations. Chang herself retold her personal stories in different languages and from different perspectives, times, and places throughout her life, so these recent renditions build upon a lengthy tradition of retellings.

    Since Chang’s death, her life...

  6. 1 Romancing Returnee Men: Masculinity in “Love in a Fallen City” and “Red Rose, White Rose”
    (pp. 15-32)
    Kam Louie

    In 1918, Lu Xun asserted that whenever the country seemed on the verge of collapse, Chinese men would thrust their women forward as sacrificial victims to obscure their own cowardice and helplessness in the face of the onslaught of aggressors and rebels.¹ Examples of such behavior abound in modern Chinese fiction. Throughout the twentieth century, Chinese men could be said to have suffered a crisis of masculinity, and often proved incapable of living up to the models of masculinity provided by traditional heroic narratives. Leftwing writers such as Lu Xun saw Chinese men as useless mostly because Chinese tradition, especially...

  7. 2 From Page to Stage: Cultural “In-betweenness” in (New) Love in a Fallen City
    (pp. 33-48)
    Jessica Tsui Yan Li

    Eileen Chang’s novella “Love in a Fallen City” (傾城之戀 hereafter LFC) has been regularly adapted into stage and film productions in many cities since its publication in Shanghai in 1943. Its adaptations can be considered as ongoing cultural re-creations, based on re-evaluation and re-contextualization in different places and historical periods. After the story’s first publication, Eileen Chang rewrote it as a script for stage production that was performed successfully in Shanghai in 1944, demonstrating its popularity in Shanghai during the wartime period. Forty years later, Hong Kong film director Ann Hui made it into a film in 1984, the year...

  8. 3 Eileen Chang and Things Japanese
    (pp. 49-72)
    Nicole Huang

    Much has already been written about Eileen Chang’s life and works. The mushrooming of publications in the Chinese language in recent years in particular speaks to the fact that Eileen Chang studies has indeed become a contemporary “distinguished school of learning” (顯學). However, it is my contention that Chang’s wartime activities are one area that calls for further in-depth research. Gone is the time when Chang and other writers of her day were branded “collaborators” and their works banished from a literary historiography dictated by political imperatives. But wartime complexity is a weighty issue that ought not be excluded from...

  9. 4 The Ordinary Fashion Show: Eileen Chang’s Profane Illumination and Mnemonic Art
    (pp. 73-90)
    Esther M. K. Cheung

    Reading Eileen Chang’s fascination for clothing is a fascinating experience; reading her critics’ fascination with her writings on fashion is even more enthralling. The existing body of scholarship on Chang’s fashion consciousness can be regarded as a reading guide for our engagement with this enigma. Among the endeavors to decode Chang’s semiotics of fetishism, one major strand of criticism reads Chang’s feminine sensibility through her sensuous and meticulous description of details, especially those about clothing. Some critics even claim that this writing strategy plays out a “politics of details” that challenges the May Fourth notion of the self.¹ Others prefer...

  10. 5 Betrayal, Impersonation, and Bilingualism: Eileen Chang’s Self-Translation
    (pp. 91-112)
    Shuang Shen

    In March 2009, several articles that told previously unknown stories about well-known Chinese writers and artists who were sent by the authorities to spy on their friends and colleagues during the Cultural Revolution were widely circulated on the Internet.¹ The articles provoked intense debate over these acts of betrayal—whether these individuals could be forgiven, and what the proper approach to a traumatic historical incident such as the Cultural Revolution should be. Coincidentally, the same month, Eileen Chang’s novel Little Reunion (小團圓, hereafter Reunion) was published posthumously in Chinese-speaking regions, stimulating a new round of discussion about this talented but...

  11. 6 Eileen Chang, Dream of the Red Chamber, and the Cold War
    (pp. 113-130)
    Xiaojue Wang

    The year 1949 witnessed the beginning of Communist rule on mainland China and the retreat of the Nationalist Government to the island province of Taiwan. With the Cold War bamboo curtain sealed along the Taiwan Strait, China was ideologically and territorially divided into various entities—the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and overseas—which concomitantly created a diaspora of millions of Chinese people. This divide changed the topography of modern Chinese literature significantly. Eileen Chang spent the first few years after the Chinese Communist takeover of mainland China in Shanghai. During this period, she wrote Eighteen Springs (十八春, 1951) and “Xiao’ai”...

  12. 7 Eileen Chang and Ang Lee at the Movies: The Cinematic Politics of Lust, Caution
    (pp. 131-154)
    Gina Marchetti

    Eileen Chang’s “Lust, Caution” (色 , 戒, 1978) and Ang Lee’s 2007 adaptation of the story deal with appearance, performance, betrayal, and the cinema. Wang Jiazhi (Tang Wei), a young actress (and avid movie fan), plays the part of a spy playing the part of the wife of a war profiteer who takes up the role of mistress to a Japanese collaborator during the occupation of Shanghai. The young woman presents herself to Mr. and Mrs. Yi (members of Wang Jingwei’s collaborationist branch of the Guomindang) as “Mrs. Mai,” who proves useful as a companion to the couple because of...

  13. 8 Seduction of a Filmic Romance: Eileen Chang and Ang Lee
    (pp. 155-176)
    Hsiu-Chuang Deppman

    Ang Lee’s adaptation of Eileen Chang’s short story “Lust, Caution” (色 ,戒, 1978) into a film of the same title in 2007 has brought into mainstream culture new and provocative interpretations of an old topic: the politics of a wartime romance. Chang’s original story is controversial because it offers no clear moral indictment of a womanizing Japan-sympathizer who executes a patriotic spy during the Sino-Japanese war (1937–45).¹ Her dense and gripping storytelling, however, presents a complex picture of human struggles with love, seduction, and betrayal in a way that captured Lee’s cinematic imagination.

    Studies of “Lust, Caution” abound. In...

  14. 9 “A Person of Weak Affect”: Toward an Ethics of Other in Eileen Chang’s Little Reunion
    (pp. 177-192)
    Laikwan Pang

    In the above extract from her autobiographical novel Little Reunion (小團 圓, 2009), Eileen Chang describes the book’s protagonist, Julie Sheng (Jiuli Sheng)— Chang’s literary alter ego—as someone who is not duochou shangan (多愁善感, sentimental). “Chou” means sorrow, worry, and apprehension, and duochou shangan literally means “prone to sorrow.” The term is often used to describe women who are oversentimental about nature, people, and events around them. Duochou shangan has an implicit gender tag, and clearly implies excess, as well as bearing the negative connotations of ignorance and indulgence. This concept is not easily translated into English, but I...

  15. 10 Romancing Rhetoricity and Historicity: The Representational Politics and Poetics of Little Reunion
    (pp. 193-214)
    Tze-lan Sang

    With the discovery of Eileen Chang’s unpublished manuscripts after her death, there is a need for us to revise our picture of her creative activities in the decades after her relocation to the United States in 1955. Unlike the previous assumption—that her creativity declined precipitously after her move to the United States, resulting in a limited output that consisted mainly of rewritings of her own old works from Shanghai and Hong Kong, some translations (including self-translations), a few screenplays, miscellaneous essays, and a scholarly study of the great eighteenth-century novel Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢)¹— we now know...

  16. 11 Madame White, The Book of Change, and Eileen Chang: On a Poetics of Involution and Derivation
    (pp. 215-242)
    David Der-wei Wang

    One aspect yet to be explored in studies of Eileen Chang is her penchant for rewriting existing works in multiple iterations and languages. This essay discusses Chang’s aesthetic of revision and bilingualism by examining her two English novels, The Fall of the Pagoda and The Book of Change, which were discovered in 2009 and published in 2010. These two novels were written in the late 1950s, when Chang had just settled in the United States. In many ways, they provide a missing link in Chang’s (re) writing of her life story, from English to Chinese and vice versa, from essay...

  17. Afterword
    (pp. 243-248)
    Leo Ou-fan Lee

    The quality and range of the papers in this volume speak for themselves. What remains for me to do in this Afterword is to ask the inevitable question—what next? What is to be done when a writer and her works have received too much, not too little, attention, especially in the Chinese-speaking world?

    However, it must be acknowledged that in spite of C. T. Hsia’s high praise of Eileen Chang’s fiction in his classic A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, 1910–1957 (1961), Western scholars have not responded with equal enthusiasm to this talented writer. As Kam Louie indicates...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 249-282)
  19. Index
    (pp. 283-298)