Female Bonding and Marginality in Shang Wanyun's novella "Xialihe" (1978).

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Date: June 2022
Publisher: Purdue University Press
Document Type: Report
Length: 8,211 words
Lexile Measure: 1880L

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Abstract :

This article explores the representation of homosociality between two marginalized female characters in "Xialihe" ([phrase omitted]) (1978), a novella by Sinophone Malaysian writer Shang Wanyun ([phrase omitted]) (1952-1995). Although some scholars have suggested that the writer's preoccupation with the intimate world of women started only in the 1980s, I argue that "Xialihe" already highlights issues such as female intimacy and women's social marginalization. The text represents, therefore, a link between her earlier nativist production and her later more feminist approach. Additionally, I contend that, writing from a marginal position at the periphery of Malaysia's national literary system and from a doubly-conservative environment (Muslim-majority Malaysia and the local Chinese community), by means of sensual descriptions and dialogical innuendos, the author bravely blurs the line which separates female bonding from homoaffectivity, thus leading the reader to question the real nature of the relationship between the Chinese narrator and her Malay friend. Lastly, through the analysis of a novella by one of the leading Sinophone Malaysian female writers of the twentieth century, this article fills a gap in Western scholarship, where studies on Shang Wanyun and her oeuvre are virtually nonexistent.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A708008176