Romancing Rhetoricity and Historicity: The Representational Politics and Poetics of Little Reunion

Edited by Kam Louie

in Eileen Chang

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9789888083794
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9789882209060 | DOI:
Romancing Rhetoricity and Historicity: The Representational Politics and Poetics of Little Reunion

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Focusing on Little Reunion, a key text for interpreting the series of self-fashioning performances Eileen Chang directed at Chinese reading publics as her imagined spectators, confessors, and adjudicators, this chapter argues that for Chang, autobiographical fiction calls for a unique and delicate balancing act between rhetoricity and historicity, imagination and factuality. An autobiographical text is neither a simple verbal construct of indeterminable referents, nor the mechanical recording of indisputable facts, but rather a process of self-recollecting and self-enactment repeated with an inescapable difference over time. Little Reunion brings the intersubjective politics of representation into high relief. Chang's desire for self-articulation and self-fashioning contends with the inscriptional authority of her former lover Hu Lancheng. Moreover, her desire to search for her roots, and in particular to construct a group portrait of her extended family, creates tension with the traditional Confucian expectation that respectful children/descendants should speak only selectively and positively about their parents/ancestors. Complicating her bid for access to inscriptional and cultural authority is the traditional marginality of women's self-representation. As a female autobiographical subject seeking to publicly interpret herself and the significant others in her life, Chang ineluctably confronts the gender bias of reigning literary, political, and social values.

Keywords: autobiographical fiction; representational politics; poetics, documentary aesthetics; mother-daughter relationship; self and other; self-censorship

Chapter.  9109 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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