Date: 2011-01-10

Degree: Doctoral Thesis

Programme: History and Heritage Studies

Authors: Leong, Si Kei

Supervisors: Prof. Tudor Vladescu, University of Saint Joseph

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Abstract:

We live in an era in which critique of the West has become a deep-rooted phenomenon of the lives of non-Europeans. This paper contributes to the study of European women perception of South East Asia as mirrored in travel writing accounts and, independently but synchronic, of the Chinese women poets who wrote during a period a few decades before and after the mid nineteenth century. I shall be analysing the Western concept of femininity and domesticity in relation to and simultaneously attempting to reformulate Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism. Central to my research method is the fact that I am trying to add to to a traditional Western-oriented gender issues approach – based on a review of the mid- nineteenth women travel writers – a reversed view, that being the representation of the Orient emerging from the vision of Chinese women literature. My research not only focuses on the literariness of travel writing, which has been widely neglected, but also on a vision of the Orient that is represented by some Chinese women writers in the nineteenth century –Gan Lirou 甘立媃 (1743-1819) and Lü Bicheng 呂碧城 (1883 – 1943). My research is not a survey study of Chinese literature, and it does not claim to be exhaustive. Instead, I attempt to systematise the problem of Western representations of the Orient by taking Ana d’Almeida’s diary, A Lady’s Visit to Manilla and Japan, as central reference and source of conceptual classification. From there, I am trying to further some gender issues drawn from Ana d’Almeida’s text and identify symmetric instances of those representations, if present, in Chinese literary texts written roughly in the same historical period. Expending Edward Said’s Orientalism, this paper tries to challenge the classic univocal Orient-Occident approach and to mirror Western Orientalist and pseudo- Orientalist ideas into contemporary Chinese writings. This is also meant to be an introduction to this cross-cultural comparative approach of femininity and domesticity open for further contributions in gender studies as well as in fields bordering social history, history of literature, literary theory and cultural anthropology.