College of Liberal Arts

Woman Fighters, Sentiment, and Female Subjectivity in Chinese Martial Arts Narrative, 1895-1945

Friday Mar 3, 2017 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM | GAR 1.102

About this talk: As part of their efforts to rejuvenate Chinese society and reconfigure cultural identity in the late nineteenth century, intellectuals advocated improving the status of women. They initiated a “new woman” movement that promoted images such as "female revolutionary," "female student," and "female anarchist" as role models. This paper identifies the transformation of the depiction of female fighters in popular Chinese martial arts narrative over the first half of the twentieth century. It examines how female fighters took the stage in a conventionally male-centered imaginary world and how they were interpreted by urban audiences. It reveals the role of the martial arts narrative tradition, nationalist discourse, and the element of sentiment in recreating the popular image of Chinese women. The image of female fighters, this paper argues, not only illustrated the anxiety and confusion prevailing in a rapidly changing society, but also influenced the conception of the modern Chinese woman.

Iris Ma received her Ph.D. from the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at UCLA in 2016. Her dissertation offers a cultural history of Chinese martial arts narrative in the first half of the twentieth century. Through examining the emergence and development of this modern narrative form, she explores issues such as commercialized writing and cultural production, gender and sexuality, the interplay between concepts of historicity and fictionality.  Her dissertation presents not only a historical account of the popular heroic imagination during a politically turbulent period, but also how urban audiences responded to a rapidly modernized society circa 1895-1945. She is currently an IHS postdoctoral fellow affiliate, revising her dissertation for publication.

Read more about her work on her page.

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