If “[c]ognition and world are interdependently originated via the living body” (Varela, Thompson, Rosch, 2017, xxvi) and “our bodily experience and the way we use imaginative mechanisms are central to how we construct categories to make sense of experience” (Lakoff, 1987, xii), we can assume that the literary (mis)representation of the body can thus be a powerful conveyor of sociocultural critique as well as of psychological activity, and not only an artistic device or a symbolic construction. Certainly familiar to everybody is the fascination that the female body has exerted on writers and artists of different epochs and cultures; Chinese literature is filled with examples of depiction of female beauty and gracefulness, however, at the same time, for a variety of reasons, the literary female body has also been subjected to any kind of distortion and manipulation, being often uglified or demonised. Sick bodies, malnourished bodies, craving bodies, and monstrous bodies populate modern and contemporary Chinese fiction and poetry. Sometimes it is a deliberately odd use of the literary language or the alteration derived from the male gaze which produces such an uncanny image of women’s body. Interestingly enough, in modern Chinese literature, the female body has been a space for debating moral values and social issues and disclosing identity crisis or change: from the rural body to modern urban anxieties, images of suffering or fighting women create both an appealing and disturbing human landscape. According to some cognitive scientists “[e]ven abstract cognitive processes are grounded on the body’s sensorimotor systems” (Varela, Thompson, Rosch, 2017, xxv). The literary treatment of body – especially influenced by the traditional concept of body-mind in Chinese philosophy – seems to recognise this primary function when it presents corporeality directly, without distinctively connecting it with an “abstract” feeling or thought, but letting it reveal states of minds and moral judgments. One clear example is, for instance, Xiao Hong 萧红’s zoomorphic representation of the female body (see also Liu, 1994) or the surreal transformations of the female characters in Han Lizhu 韩丽珠 (Hon Lai-Chu)’s works. My paper aims at analyzing and comparing a range of modern and contemporary Chinese literary texts centered on the description of female bodies in different epochs, contexts, and genres, trying to connect the cognitive approach and the construction of meaning through literary discourse.

Human/Inhuman/Posthuman Female Bodies in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature: Literary Descriptions of Psychological and Social Unease

PESARO N.
2022

Abstract

If “[c]ognition and world are interdependently originated via the living body” (Varela, Thompson, Rosch, 2017, xxvi) and “our bodily experience and the way we use imaginative mechanisms are central to how we construct categories to make sense of experience” (Lakoff, 1987, xii), we can assume that the literary (mis)representation of the body can thus be a powerful conveyor of sociocultural critique as well as of psychological activity, and not only an artistic device or a symbolic construction. Certainly familiar to everybody is the fascination that the female body has exerted on writers and artists of different epochs and cultures; Chinese literature is filled with examples of depiction of female beauty and gracefulness, however, at the same time, for a variety of reasons, the literary female body has also been subjected to any kind of distortion and manipulation, being often uglified or demonised. Sick bodies, malnourished bodies, craving bodies, and monstrous bodies populate modern and contemporary Chinese fiction and poetry. Sometimes it is a deliberately odd use of the literary language or the alteration derived from the male gaze which produces such an uncanny image of women’s body. Interestingly enough, in modern Chinese literature, the female body has been a space for debating moral values and social issues and disclosing identity crisis or change: from the rural body to modern urban anxieties, images of suffering or fighting women create both an appealing and disturbing human landscape. According to some cognitive scientists “[e]ven abstract cognitive processes are grounded on the body’s sensorimotor systems” (Varela, Thompson, Rosch, 2017, xxv). The literary treatment of body – especially influenced by the traditional concept of body-mind in Chinese philosophy – seems to recognise this primary function when it presents corporeality directly, without distinctively connecting it with an “abstract” feeling or thought, but letting it reveal states of minds and moral judgments. One clear example is, for instance, Xiao Hong 萧红’s zoomorphic representation of the female body (see also Liu, 1994) or the surreal transformations of the female characters in Han Lizhu 韩丽珠 (Hon Lai-Chu)’s works. My paper aims at analyzing and comparing a range of modern and contemporary Chinese literary texts centered on the description of female bodies in different epochs, contexts, and genres, trying to connect the cognitive approach and the construction of meaning through literary discourse.
Le corps dans les littératures modernes d’Asie orientale : discours, représentation, intermédialité/The Body in Asian Literatures in the 20th et 21st Centuries : Discourses, Representations, Intermediality
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3718612
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