By Xin Yang
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 23, no. 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 169-196
This essay investigates the gendered implications of discourses of sickness and recovery through the lens of novels by Chen Ran, a key representative of the “individualized writing” (gerenhua xiezuo) of the 1990s, and Anni Baobei, whose works are recognized as “individualized writing of the Internet age.” By reading A Private Life (Siren shenghuo; 1998) and Padma (Lianhua; 2006), the author argues that each of these writers uses the trope of the sick woman to comment the implications of socio-institutional structures in contemporary China. The fictional female patients mirror ongoing social transformations and women’s continuing dialogue with the patriarchal mainstream, while presenting contending visions of female selfhood and the norms of male-dominated society. The works reflect the different cultural strategies that women have taken in responding to the rapidly changing social realities at two distinct historical moments in postsocialist China.