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Eileen ChangRomancing Languages, Cultures and Genres$
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Louie Kam

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9789888083794

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888083794.001.0001

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Romancing Rhetoricity and Historicity: The Representational Politics and Poetics of Little Reunion

Romancing Rhetoricity and Historicity: The Representational Politics and Poetics of Little Reunion

(p.193) 10 Romancing Rhetoricity and Historicity: The Representational Politics and Poetics of Little Reunion
Eileen Chang
Kam Louie
Hong Kong University Press

Focusing on Little Reunion, a key text for interpreting the series of self-fashioning performances Eileen Chang directed at Chinese reading publics as her imagined spectators, confessors, and adjudicators, this chapter argues that for Chang, autobiographical fiction calls for a unique and delicate balancing act between rhetoricity and historicity, imagination and factuality. An autobiographical text is neither a simple verbal construct of indeterminable referents, nor the mechanical recording of indisputable facts, but rather a process of self-recollecting and self-enactment repeated with an inescapable difference over time. Little Reunion brings the intersubjective politics of representation into high relief. Chang's desire for self-articulation and self-fashioning contends with the inscriptional authority of her former lover Hu Lancheng. Moreover, her desire to search for her roots, and in particular to construct a group portrait of her extended family, creates tension with the traditional Confucian expectation that respectful children/descendants should speak only selectively and positively about their parents/ancestors. Complicating her bid for access to inscriptional and cultural authority is the traditional marginality of women's self-representation. As a female autobiographical subject seeking to publicly interpret herself and the significant others in her life, Chang ineluctably confronts the gender bias of reigning literary, political, and social values.

Keywords:   autobiographical fiction, representational politics, poetics, documentary aesthetics, mother-daughter relationship, self and other, self-censorship

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