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Fictionality and Reality in Narrative Discourse

This dissertation is an attempt to define a Chinese “modernism,” exemplified by the narrative practices of four major writers in Taiwan today, from the perspective of comparative literature and recent development of literary theory. I propose that modernity of Taiwanese fiction is not so much a result of Western influences as an evolution of Chinese narrative tradition itself. To argue my point I delineate a poetics of Chinese narrative, from which I devise a method of reading and a criterion of evaluation for contemporary Taiwanese fiction in defining its achievement and historical significance. This study of Taiwanese fiction also aims at providing a better understanding of fundamental aesthetic assumptions of Western “modernism” in the context of its own literary tradition. Chapter One, “Introduction,” investigates the theoretical foundation and its line of development in Western and Chinese poetics respectively. It first examines the Platonic view of mimesis and Aristotelian aesthetic view of fictionality and their influence on the critical tradition, the continuity of the ancient battle between philosophy and poetry as seen in the structuralist and deconstructionist theories, then the relationship between subjective fictionality and ironic objectivity in Chinese poetics, the continuity of the dilemma in the Chinese novelists in their dual allegiance to the ideal and the real. A final section gives a critical overview of the literary scene in Taiwan. The following four chapters provide examples of the internal tension between fictionality and ironic awareness in the Taiwanese modernist texts. I suggest that instead of stretching the metaphorical potential of fiction to a highly intellectualized abstraction or playing down the interpretive claims of fiction by dramatizing its vulnerability like their Western counterpart, the Taiwanese modernists create their texts on the borderline between the high and the low. Self-assertive as well as self-denying, each of them confronts his own intellectual vision with paradox and ambivalence. In Ch’en Ying-chen, this is expressed as a battle between a lyrical vision of ideological values and an instinctive self-clowning, in Ch’i-teng Sheng, as a form of competition between pattern and contingency, in Wang Chen-ho, as a celebration and abuse of the fictionality of fiction, and in Wang Wen-hsing, an intense self-parody. I conclude that the sensitivity to the irrational and contradiction, inherent with a resistance to didacticism, constitutes the best part of the Chinese humanistic tradition, which is continuously enriched with new dimensions by the contemporary Taiwanese writers.

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Women’s Ghost Literature in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Nineteenth-century ghost literature by women shows the Gothic becoming more experimental and subversive as its writers abandoned the stereotypical Gothic heroines of the past in order to create more realistic, middle-class characters (both living and dead, male and female) who rage against the limits imposed on them by the natural world. The ghosts of Female Gothic thereby become reflections of the social, sexual, economic and racial troubles of the living. Expanding the parameters of Female Gothic and moving it into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries allows us to recognise women’s ghost literature as a specific strain of the Female Gothic that began not with Ann Radcliffe, but with the Romantic Gothic ballads of women in the first decade of the nineteenth century.

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The House on Mango Street

Told in a series of vibrant vignettes, The House on Mango Streetis the story of Esperanza Cordera, a young girl growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. For Esperanza, Mango Street is a desolate landscape of concrete and run-down tenements where she discovers the hard realities of life – the fetters of class and gender, the spectre of racial enmity and the mysteries of sexuality. Capturing her thoughts and emotions in poems and stories, Esperanza is able to rise above hopelessness and create for herself “a house all of my own quiet as snow, a space for myself to go” in the midst of her oppressive surroundings.

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You Should Pity Us Instead

“Amy Gustine’sYou Should Pity Us Insteadis a devastating, funny, and astonishingly frank collection of stories. Gustine can be brutally honest about the murky calculations, secret dreams and suppressed malice to which most of us never admit, not even to ourselves.”—Karen Russell

You Should Pity Us Insteadis an unbroken spell from first story to last, despite the enormous range of subjects and landscapes, sufferings and joys it explores.”—Laura Kasischke

“Amy Gustine’s stories cross impossible borders both physical and moral: a mother looking for her kidnapped son sneaks into Gaza, an Ellis Island inspector mourning his lost love plays God at the boundary between old world and new. Brave, essential, thrilling, each story inYou Should Pity Us Insteadtakes us to those places we’ve never dared visit before.”—Ben Stroud

You Should Pity Us Insteadexplores some of our toughest dilemmas: the cost of Middle East strife at its most intimate level, the likelihood of God considered in day-to-day terms, the moral stakes of family obligations, and the inescapable fact of mortality. Amy Gustine exhibits an extraordinary generosity toward her characters, instilling them with a thriving, vivid presence.

Amy Gustine‘s short fiction has appeared in theKenyon Review,North American Review,Black Warrior Review, the Massachusetts Review, and many other places. She lives in Ohio.