Cultural, Linguistic and Literary Approaches to Narratives of Femininity
Edited By Tiina Mäntymäki, Marinella Rodi-Risberg and Anna Foka
Ghosts and Spirits as the objet a in Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from Make-Do Studio
← 48 | 49 → Wang Lei
This chapter explores the ghosts and spirits in Pu Songling’s Tales by employing the volatility of the Lacanian objet a to suggest that these female characters are both identified with and deviant from normative definitions of femininity. In contrast to traditional Chinese women, who are vulnerable to male exploitation, these ghosts and spirits brim with courage and tricks and escort downtrodden scholars on their hardship-laden trips to personal accomplishment. Suggestive of the absent-present objet a, the females offer meaning to the other characters’ lives in the stories.
The Chinese writer Pu Songling’s Strange Tales (1860, henceforth ST in references) is a well-known collection of 491 short stories of the romantic affairs of depressed, pedantic scholars with ravishing, supernatural women. The stories are set in the Qing dynasty (1636–1912), which was dominated by the Manchus, and written in an age of political upheaval and the ensuing turbulence in seventeenth century feudal China. In Redefining History (1998), Chun-shu Chang and Shelley Hsueh-lun Chang direct their attention to the link between the world of Pu Songling and the world of his short stories. Pu Songling was a failed scholar leading a disappointed and depressed life: he had spent almost his entire life reading, writing and teaching in the mountainous north-eastern province of Shandong. Frustrated by a lifelong failure in seeking scholarly honour, he found refuge in the world of fiction, composing a collection of uncanny yet remarkably lucid short stories which...
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