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- Over the last century few writers have had as much influence on the development of modern Chinese literature in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan as Eileen Chang (1920-1995). The Chang Legend, one can say, began with the publication of her first short story, "Aloeswood Ashes: the First Burning" in Shanghai in 1942 and was invigorated by C. T. Hsias powerful comment about her being "the best and most important writer in Chinese" (A History of Modern Chinese Fiction 389) in 1961. Her death in 1995, not surprisingly, rekindled serious debate over the value of her work.
- While Chang criticism has been dominated by biographical studies and the application of various theories (e.g. psychoanalysis, new historicism, new criticism, cultural theory and feminism) to her work, few critics are yet committed to exploring what I consider to be one of the most important aspects of her work -- the rewriting of colonial encounters between East and West. More specifically, her conscious and methodical effort to retell the exotic stories of the popular British writer Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) calls our attention to her affinity with European realism on the one hand and to her intervention in colonialist discourse on the other. The "hybridity" of her position -- a Western-educated Chinese -- thus makes her "nativist" resistance to colonization as intriguing as some of the most influential post-colonial writers -- Chinua Achebe, Tayib Salih, V. S. Naipaul, Camara Laye, Mahasweta Devi, and many others. Given the lack of scholarship on the significance of her de-colonizing endeavor, it is thus all the more imperative for us to examine how her concern with the exoticization of Chineseness as a cultural parody redefines the dynamic between East and West in the context of post-colonial studies.
- In order to understand Changs literary intervention, I suggest that we must also be sensitive to certain biographical and historical contexts of her life. In a 1939 autobiographical essay, "The Dream of a Genius," Chang describes how she eloquently recited poetry from the Tang dynasty at three, began to compose her first family tragedy at seven, and started a Utopian novel entitled "Happy Village" at eight. Despite these dreams of genius, we know that her writing career did not take off until she had tasted the bittersweet world of adults. Caught in the conflicts between her parents, Chang chose to endorse the artistic and liberal reveries of her Europeanized mother and revolted against the aristocratic decadence of her opium-ridden father. This choice, compounded by her pursuit of an independent creative environment, greatly angered her father and stepmother. Escaping from the physical and intellectual imprisonment of her fathers house, she later moved in with her mother and earned a fellowship to attend Hong Kong University. After three years of college in Hong Kong, the Pacific War broke out and Chang returned to Shanghai in 1942.
- Although Shanghai was still under Japanese occupation, she began to write film criticism for the local edition of The London Times and to contribute articles to the English edition of a German magazine, The Twentieth Century. The most productive years of her writing career were 1943-5, a period in which she published many of her famous stories and novels in such Chinese journals as Violet (tsu lou lan) and Variety (wan hsiang), and Magazine Monthly (cha chi yue kan). The first edition of her collected short stories, Romance (chuan chi), published by Magazine Monthly in 1944, was sold out in four days, and by then Chang was a celebrity in many literary circles. However, the Communists takeover of China in 1949 cut short Changs run of stardom, for with a much publicized prestigious family background, Chang knew that she would become a conspicuous target for Communist persecution. Foreseeing political trouble, she escaped to Hong Kong in 1952 and left for the U.S. in 1955. Aside from her marriage to the playwright Ferdinand Reyher (1891-1967) in 1956, she lived as a recluse until her death in 1995 in Los Angeles.
- Most biographies suggest that Chang was an avid reader of Maughams work, largely fashioned in the crisp realist tradition of Chekhov, Maupassant, and, to some extent, Mansfield. In her first ten stories (a series of colonial sketches published between 1942-5), one finds that Chang borrowed heavily from the techniques and subject matter of Maughams South Seas narratives (written between 1919-31). A comparison of their work therefore reveals that both authors shared a strong personal and national interest in the colonial relationship between East and West. However, despite their literary kinship, Chang and Maugham have significant differences. Their opposing perspectives -- one Eurocentric and the other Sinocentric -- show contrasting approaches to the space of coloniality. Moreover, they tend to see different dangers in the exoticization of the Orient. While both writers toy with pre-existing assumptions about the differences between colonists and natives, Changs writing reveals that the Maughamian fetishization of differences ultimately leads to a certain commodification of "authenticity," which exacerbates the fallacy of an imperialist desire to reinvent the notion of a pure, national culture.
- This essay will examine these two particular issues -- the construction of perspective and the problematization of Orientalism -- through a close-reading of two of their short stories, Maughams "The Outstation" and Changs "Indian Summer." My comparison will situate both works in the context of post-colonial studies and analyze how their different interpretations of colonial space raise important questions pertaining to Homi Bhabhas discourse of colonial mimicry, Trinh Minh-has exposition of the silenced native, and Edward Saids now classic notion of Orientalism. My focus on their use of domestic space further suggests that they treat the notion of home as a privileged topos which materializes the paraphernalia of the Self and makes visible a colonizing desire to domesticate the unfamiliar.
- Although Maugham has not been a popular writer with critics, the scope of his colonial writing, in some ways, rivals that of Rudyard Kiplings and touches upon subjects pertinent to our understanding of the power dynamic between colonists and nativists. Many of his celebrated stories in East and West -- "The Letter," "The Red," "The Yellow Streak," "The Force of Circumstance," to name a few -- contrast the shadowy existence of the natives with the vibrant and sometimes precarious lives of the colonists. This contrariety not only highlights a strong racial tension between two communities but also consolidates the class hierarchy in the British colonies.
- Conversely, Changs colonial stories -- from "Aloeswood Ashes: the First Burning" to "Love in a Fallen City" -- carefully animate the natives presence. This effort revives a marginal existence that has largely been blurred, suppressed, or simply absent from Maughams narrative. Their different positions thus create an intriguingly supplementary dialogue between master/colonist and servant/native -- they each speak to the others absence.
- This is especially the case in Maughams "The Outstation" and Changs "Indian Summer." Both stories call attention to the monocentric view of the colonial cultural practice and account for the displacement of a colonizers "place" in the Far East with an ironic twist. While Maughams British narrator aspires to create a pure form of Englishness to solidify the boundary between self and other, Changs Chinese servant trivializes her foreign masters effort to hybridize Westernness with Chineseness in the space of coloniality. As a result, the juxtaposition of their texts shows the distinct ideological formations which inform the reader of both writers literary preferences: Maughams privileging of the center/Empire is to be directly challenged by Changs privileging of the peripheral/Colony.
- Like most of his exotic fiction, Maughams story investigates how an expatriate (re)conceives of the legitimacy of English presence in the Far East. The story begins with an introduction to the isolated existence of Mr. Warburton in the remote region of Borneo in the South Seas. Being the only Englishman in the colony, Warburton sees himself as an uncontaminated romantic hero teaching the natives the "civilizing" principles of the West. When the station hires an Assistant Clerk, another Englishman, to help him out in the area, he invites his new colleague to his house for dinner.
- In this crucial scene, the narrative elaborates how Warburton uses his domestic space to romanticize and materialize his Englishness.He went into his room where his things were as neatly laid out as if he had an English valet, undressed, and, walking down the stairs to the bath-house, sluiced himself with cool water. The only concession he made to the climate was to wear a white dinner-jacket; but otherwise, in a boiled shirt and a high collar, silk socks and patent-leather shoes, he dressed as formally as though he were dining at his club in Pall Mall. A careful host, he went into the dining-room to see that the table was properly laid. It was gay with orchids and the silver shone brightly. The napkins were folded into elaborate shapes. Shaded candles in silver candlesticks shed a soft light. Mr. Warburton smiled his approval and returned to the sitting-room to await his guest. Presently he appeared. Cooper was wearing the khaki shorts, the khaki shirt, and the ragged jacket in which he had landed. Mr. Warburtons smile of greeting froze on his face. ("The Outstation" 269)Notably absent in the scene is the Malay servant who functions like "an English Valet" and performs all the housework with care and efficiency. The absence of the Others voice makes the hosts solemnly maintained "English" habits -- formal dinner attire in spite of the boiling heat and shining dinner ware with an elaborate arrangement -- assume a certain racial, cultural, and nationalist "purity." Driven by a displaced pride, Mr. Warburton uses expensive and familiar objects to create a nostalgic illusion of being at "home"at home with his cultural roots and with his Eurocentric vision of good taste.
- Most strikingly, Warburtons meticulous preparations for the dinner party give the reader an impression that he is getting ready for a romantic date. The bath, the clothes, the flowers, and the soft candlelight all hint at his concern for the (sexual) attractiveness of both the host and the household. His dinner party seems to expect not so much a new subordinate but a witness to (and, perhaps, a sexual partner to share) his romance with England. He hopes to find a compatriot who will understand the extent to which his effort to maintain a proper English identity among a group of "barbarians" is heroic.
- Warburtons feast, complete with an European menu and two Malay boys serving the guest with well-trained grace, shows his Orientalizing effort to imagine the "authenticity" of the life style of a high British society. His dining room mummifies the image of "Great" Britain bathed in the glory of good foreign food, good wine, and good manners, and reveals his nostalgic desire to convert this strange Orient into his idealization of what a "civilized" West should be. In his imagination, the Orient can "almost" become a perfect copy of his home country. However, Warburtons effort to naturalize the artificiality of his taste is ridiculed by his guest, the newcomer. Coopers seasonal and "localized" clothing (i.e. "the khaki shorts, the khaki shirt, and the ragged jacket") shatters the elegant illusion in which the romanticized Englishness could be seamlessly transplanted to the soil of the South Seas.
- The characterization of Warburton calls to mind the post-colonial investigation of an imperial insistence on hegemony. Very usefully we can approach the colonialists displaced idealism through Homi Bhabhas notion of mimicry. For Bhabha,colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same but not quite. Which is to say, that the discourse of mimicry is constructed around an ambivalence, in order to be effective mimicry must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference. ("Of Mimicry and Man" 186. Bhabhas emphasis)Bhabhas analysis would explain the tension in the passage in which Warburton faces the discrepancy in the discourse of mimicry: his house is almost the high-class English club but not quite, his Malay boys are almost the English valets but not quite, and his guest is almost the aspiring compatriot, but not quite. Warburtons dinner mimics because it unsuccessfully appropriates a romanticized self-identity: the host has to make concessions (e.g. wearing "a white dinner-jacket") in the make-believe world of identification. The paraphernalia in the dining room can thus be seen as camouflaging a crisis of authority, for he is unable to control the "direction" of colonial assimilation. Cooper, his subordinate, succumbs to the climate and makes adjustments. In this sense, we find that the host sees his own inferior double both in the natives and in his own community -- the utopian topos in which perfection presumably resides.
- Maughams Eurocentric perspective inevitably complicates the fallacy of this mimetic hierarchy. Although his Eurocentrism has drawn a lot of criticism, Maugham has no want of staunch defenders who embrace his dualistic distinction of Self and Other. Critics like Anthony Burgess argue that "Maugham cannot be blamed for making his stories centre on . . . Europeans, since they were the only people he could really get to know" (Maughams Malaysian Stories, xvi). Klaus W. Jonas also comments that Maugham "is concerned with the English character with which he mostly deals in his exotic narratives; not, however, because he considers it more interesting than that of other nationalities. He is convinced that, as an Englishman, he will never quite succeed in understanding and portraying other peoples realistically" ("Maugham and the East" 106).
- These practical concerns, assuming the unknowability of the other perspective and the authenticity of a monolithic cultural position, create an epistemological order to suppress a fear of foreignness and alienation. They seem to suggest that the agnostic doubt about the limitation of ones own English viewpoint can be ministered by disengagement which, in turns, generates both a sense of "objective" detachment and ultimately a freedom of interpretation: the natives cannot be understood or "realistically portrayed," but they can be contained within the European framework of fictional and epistemological tradition.
- Such "complacent ignorance" and "reluctance to involve themselves in the issues," as Trinh Minh-ha points out, enable the colonists to "work toward your erasure while urging you to keep your way of life and ethnic values within the borders of your homelands" (Women, Native, Other 80). Trinh Minh-has description raises an important concern for the authority of characterization: the absence of the Others perspective in a colonial text leaves the natives no room for self-definition. Addressing "woman, native, other" directly, Trinh continues:You who understand the dehumanization of forced removal-relocation-reeducation-redefinition, the humiliation of having to falsify your own reality, your voice -- you know. And often cannot say it. You try and keep on trying to unsay it, for if you dont, they will not fail to fill in the blanks on your behalf, and you will be said. (80)This powerful assumption of a second-person audience deliberately effaces the invisibility of "them," "him," and "her" and brings to light the systematic deprivation of the natives autonomy. This questioning emphasizes the importance of perspective and positionality, for it challenges the authority of writers like Maugham whose exotic narrative boasts a possibility of seeing through the unique man "in those parts of the world where civilization is worn thinner" ("Maugham and the East" 101). However, the ambivalence of such colonial cognition is apparent: the centralized Self claims to know what it also sees as unknowable in the marginalized Other.
- This logic has also been famously criticized by Edward Saids classical definition of Orientalism. Orientalism, Said suggests, is the Western invention of the Orient as "a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orients special place in European Western experience" (Orientalism 1). The term Orientalism therefore indicates an authoritative European expertise which explains, controls, and rationalizes the images of the Other. Saids study offers this thesis:There is nothing mysterious or natural about authority. It is formed, irradiated, disseminated; it is instrumental, it is persuasive; it has status, it establishes canons of taste and value; it is virtually indistinguishable from certain ideas it dignifies as true, and from traditions, perceptions, and judgments it forms, transmits, reproduces. Above all, authority can, indeed must, be analyzed". (Orientalism 19-20)Saids comment exposes the categorizing authority of Oriental theory and states a need to challenge the power of this interpretive privilege. In the context of my analysis, Maughams narrative (i.e. Warburtons tyrannical appropriation of "good" and "bad" images) confirms this cogent relation between colonialism and cultural domination, and thus falls into Saids critique of how an Orientalist structures the hierarchical boundary of difference.
- In contrast to Warburtons English narcissism, Changs "Indian Summer" highlights the ambivalence of such an orientalizing romance -- a "love story" which dramatizes the superiority of the European Self to justify an imperialistic desire for assimilation, identification, and homogeneity. Changs story problematizes this colonial vision and exposes the fallacy of a colonial authority to reinvent the "authenticity" of the Self in the East.
- Changs story parodies Maughams Eurocentric vision in several ways. She reverses, first of all, the narrative hierarchy between colonists and natives and uses a Chinese maid to castigate the calculated ambition of her foreign master. Mr. Gorda, a Westerner working in Shanghai, sees his stay in the Orient as an extended adventure hunting for a perfect romance. Like Maughams Warburton, Gorda uses the arrangement of his chamber to materialize a colonial self-adulation. However, while Warburton represses all that is non-English in his bachelors haven, here we encounter a syncretic form of an inclusive colonizing desire.
- It is a "morning-after-the-party" scene and the maid Ah-Hsiao walks into Mr. Gordas bedroom to inspect her allotted work for the day.Right at this moment the sun came out, lighting up the room with a sort of smoggy blue light, as smoky as paper-burning. Scattered in bed were colorful silky cushions. Spread out on the headboard were a wireless, magazines and newspapers. In the bedroom were a pair of slippers hidden underneath the bed, a red-blue Peking-style little rug, a courtly-lantern-style waste basket, and a pair of parental redwood coffee tables, decorated with exquisite engravings, sitting right next to each other. In the corner of the wall hung a Ghost mask from Peking Opera. There was a pair of tin candle holders on the table. The room, stuffed with delicate pleasures, was like the chamber of an eminent Caucasian Russian prostitute who built a comfortable nest with bits and pieces of Chinese goods. The most precious decoration were, however, the misty purplish wine glasses in the bar, all kinds of glasses for different kinds of wine; the neatly arranged bottles had egg-sized corks on top, painted red, blue, and green ("Indian Summer 133). Although Gordas room, unlike Warburtons space, shows little nostalgic Anglicization, the reader witnesses an equally lavish display of a romanticizing fantasy. Ah- Hsiaos perspective, along with the entry of the sun -- a natural metaphor that often symbolizes disclosure and order in Changs fiction -- exposes the gaudy glamour of the room: it is a collage of tawdry expenditures. While there is a touch of cultural curiosity in the red-blue Peking-style little rug, courtly lantern-style waste basket, and Ghost mask from the Peking Opera, Ah-Hsiao later tells us that many of these Chinese decorations are given to him by his romantic pawns and thus serve as souvenirs for his sexual prowess. The presentation stages a paradoxical mood of self-affirmation: it testifies to the materialization of an Orientalists collecting fantasy and shows, however, Gordas dependence on meeting the Other to find the Self. This double-edged mentality again calls attention to what Bhabha theorizes as the "The Other Question": "that otherness which is at once an object of desire and derision, an articulation of difference contained within the fantasy of origin and identity" (67). Bhabha believes that a careful analysis of how the space of otherness is productively ambivalent sheds light upon the sophism and paradoxes of colonial discourse. Gordas chamber, to a large extent, makes visible Changs intervention in the colonial discourse of power and occupation.
- Broadly speaking, the intriguing mélange of pride and intimacy in Mr. Gordas furnishings mimics the complex dynamic in the city of Shanghai. Shanghai, like Borneo, was an occupied territory during World War II, and a site of acute cultural tensions between China and the West. A city advertised for its ephemeral pleasures and instant gratification, Shanghai epitomizes the space of coloniality within which an Orientalizing fantasy can be realized. Departing from Warburtons stress on the purity of a nationalist culture, Gorda exploits the unspecificity of his nationality to construct a collective identity which embodies all that is modern, Western, male, aggressive, and dominant. The interior of his chamber thus structures, so it seems, a space of triumph, for written in the collection of objects is a romantic epic of conquest.
- However, Gordas romance with the East ultimately corresponds to Warburtons self-fashioning narcissism. His quest for an ideal romance functions once and again to manifest not a need for the Other, but for the perfection of the Self: the Orient functions only as a magnifying glass to reflect the Western man twice its natural size. This looking-glass illusion is nevertheless deconstructed by Ah-Hsiaos gaze: the voice-over of the Chinese maid in her absent masters empty nest transforms the romantic epic into a melodrama.
- The narrative overtly ridicules the disingenuous structure of the formulaic fantasy constructed in Maughams exotic stories. While Warburtons colonist mentality enshrines the making of a perfect nation, albeit illusory, in his Far Eastern residency, Gordas futile search for an ideal Oriental mistress helps him build a collectors memorial to glorify his Western masculinity. Both authors employ domestic space to characterize the materiality of their displaced desires. Changs narrative, however, goes further to expose the materialist nature of the Orientalizing romance. Even if Gorda finds his dream girl, Ah-Hsiao taunts, "all he wanted to do was take a little advantage of her and call it quits" ("Indian Summer" 134). Her comment derides the colonialists mentality in his foreign exploits and discloses the unromantic nature of a romance enslaved by a desire for possession and economic profits.
- Changs deromanticization of colonialism also re-orients the notion of sexuality in the stereotypical representation of the East. Ah-Hsiaos comparison of Mr. Gorda to a "Caucasian Russian prostitute," in particular, changes the dynamic between the "masculine" West and "feminine" East. To a large certain, Mr. Gorda has been "unmanned" by the feminization of his personal space. The colorful silky cushions and a pair of slippers hidden underneath the bed give the room a touch of feminine delicacy. The image of nesting, in particular, conveys a maternal instinct and transforms the occupant into a home-maker, protective of his/her own territory. This "nest" also resembles the escort center in which Mr. Gorda himself conducts transactions and offers services. The bright colors of the corks, red, blue, and green, consciously advertise the sensory experiences that Mr. Gorda promises to provide for his clients, and the analogy between Gorda and a high-class prostitute transforms the fantasy land into a store of cheap thrills. Deprived of its romantic vitality and heroic vigor, Mr. Gordas chamber, seen from the perspective of A-hsiao, does not exoticize the space of the Orient; rather, it has been de-orientalized by the maids realistic evaluation of how the West fantasizes the East.
- Finally, Changs "unmanning" of the colonial subject in the domestic space is crucial to our understanding of her revision of Maughams exotic fiction. Although Warburtons fastidious romanticization of Egnlishness makes him almost an androgynous figure masquerading in his closet homosexuality, most of Maughams writing seeks to solidify, in particular, the image of a feminine, submissive, and silent East. The narrating maid in Changs story has thus spoken not only for the Malay boys, but, very importantly, also for speechless native women in Maughams other works: the native girl with "the passionate grace of the hibiscus and the rich colour" in "Red" (49), the Chinese mistress wearing "little Chinese silk slippers" and "elaborate gold pins in her black hair" in "The Letter" (88), the native wife sitting "on quite quietly, faintly rocking herself in her chair . . . with none could tell what calm thoughts" in "Yellow Streak" (300-1), and the abandoned native mistress "with the large, dark, starry eyes of her race and a mass of raven hair" in "The Force of Circumstance" (249). Changs stories labor to restore the speech of the Other whose presence is made invisible and voice inaudible by Maughams discourse of colonial space, nation, and narration.
- The interior design of Gordas chamber creates a cultural parody of an "authentic" Other and ultimately compromises a nationalist myth of ideological purity, for the mock Orientalization of a Western space in the East inevitably problematizes the hierarchy of colonial mimicry -- an imagined structure so essential to the configuration of imperialist superiority. Moreover, if Gordas search for the sexualized Chineseness, as displayed in his domestic space and romantic masque, is tantamount to a colonist desire for cultural differentiation and centralization, the commodification of this quest only exacerbates the superficiality of trading surfaces. The oppositional politics of self and other is thus reduced to a narrative of imperfect imitation. This reduction makes one all the more keenly aware of how the image of China in Gordas chamber is but a copy of a copy. Speaking from the perspective and position of A-hsiao, Changs art turns colonial mimicry into the Orients invention of the Occidents invention of the Orient, a process of Platonic poetic duplication, speaking to the infinite absence of the "original."
Ze Yang's biographical study of Chang's literary career in "The Sophisticated Girl: The Legend of Eileen Chang" offers an overview of how the "Chang legend" finds its roots in both her family life and the city Shanghai. See Reading Eileen Chang, ed. Ze Yang (Taipei: Mai Tien, 1999), 9-26. Back
There is no want of comparative projects on Chang and Western writers. Notably, Shui Ching's comparison of Eileen Chang and Henry James in Tbe Art of Eileen Chang's Fiction (Taipei: Ta-ti, 1973), 63-92; Elizabeth Cheng Steward's dissertation Awareness of the Woman Question in he Novels of George Eliot and Eileen Chang (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois, 1987), among others. Reading Chang with the analytical techniques of Western theories is pervasive. See C. T. Hsia's Love, Society, Novel (Taipei: Chun-wen-hsueh, 1970), Shui Ching's The Art of Eileen Chang's Novels (Taipei: Ta-ti, 1973), Edward M. Gunn's Unwelcome Muse: Chinese Literature in Shanghai and Peking 1937-45 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980) and more recently The World of Eileen Chang, ed. Shu-sen Chang (Taipei: Yun-chen, 1990), Chien Chang's New Theory on Eileen Chang (Taipei: Shu-chuan, 1996), Reading Eileen Chang, ed. Ze Yang (Taipei: Mai Tien, 1999). Back
As far as I know, there are two critics who have commented upon the relationship between Chang and post-colonialism. One is Chang Hsiao-Hung, "The Object-Fetishization of Eileen Chang" (Lian Wu Zhang Ai-ling) in Queer Desire: Gender and Sexuality (Taipei: Lian-ho, 1996), 32-43; the other is Yuan-Huang Tsai's "Reading Eileen Chang from the Viewpoint of Post-Colonialism" (Tsung Hou Chi Min Chu Y De Guang Dian Kan Zhang Ai-ling), Reading Eileen Chang, ed. Tse Yang (Taipei: Mai, 1999), 279-302. Back
This is a term that has been carefully defined by Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang in her discussion of contemporary Chinese fiction from Taiwan in Modernism and the Nativist Resistance (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993), see especially 148-76. Back
There are two things that need to be clarified here. First, I use the term "post-colonial" in correspondence with the definition given by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin in The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (London and New York: Routledge, 1989). They use the term "to cover all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day. This is because there is a continuity of preoccupations throughout the historical process initiated by European imperial aggression" (2). Second, I am aware that there is a rift between post-colonial theory (embodied by Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi Bhabha) and post-colonial studies (represented by the rest of the field). In the context of my comparative studies, I do not wish to call any particular attention to the rigorous differentiation of these two theoretical practices, as it is characterized in Bart Moore-Gilbert's Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics (London and New York: Verso, 1997). Rather, I will use theories deemed appropriate to my literary analysis. Back
Eileen Chang, "Dream of a Genius" in Chang's Look (chang kai) (Taipei: Huang Kuan Publisher, 1984), 277. With regard to her early creative activities, there is some discrepancy between the accounts of "The dream of a Genius and Unpublished Manuscript, collected in Gossip (liu yan). In the latter, Chang mentions that she composed her first Utopian novel, "The Happy Village within Happy Villages" at twelve or thirteen. See Gossip (Hong Kong: Huang Kuan Publisher, 1996), 123. Back
Chang graphically describes how she had been physically tortured and imprisoned by her father and stepmother in her autobiographical essay, "Whispering Words" (si yu) in Gossip, 153-68. Back
For more details about Chang's relation to European journals, see Ch'ing Yu's Biography of Eileen Chang (Taipei: Shi Chien Publisher, 1995), 90-101. Also see Cheng Shu-sen's "Eileen Chang and The Twentieth Century" in The World of Eileen Chang (Taipei: Yun-chen Publisher, 1994), 41-6. Back
There have been ample discussions of how Chang's prestigious family history -- both her parents were descendants of the highest officials (Hung-chang Lee and P'ei-lun Chang) in the late years of Ch'ing Dynasty -- shapes her literary vision of the world. For further references, see Ch'ing Yu's The Biography of Eileen Chang, Eileen Chang's autobiography, Stories of the Photos (Taipei: Huang Kuan Publisher, 1994), and Yen-cheng Yu's The Historical Consciousness of Eileen Chang's Novels (Taipei: Mai Tian Publisher, 1994), 21-9. Back
Chang herself wrote and translated several of her novels and stories into English, most famously, The Rice-Sprout Song (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955), The Rouge of the North (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), and Golden Cangue collected in Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas 1919-1949, eds. Joseph Lau, C. T. Hsia, and Leo Ou-fan Lee (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), 530-59. Back
For further reference on these writers' influence on Maugham, see Richard A. Cordell's Somerset Maugham: A Biographical and Critical Study (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961), 160-93. Back
In his preface (1943) to the publications of Chang's first two Hong Kong stories, "Aloeswood Ashes: The First Burning" and "Aloeswood Ashes: The Second Burning," Chou suggested that Chang's style "is very similar to that of the British Writer Somerset Maugham" and in her subsequent visit to the editor Chang willingly acknowledged that she was a great Maugham fan. See Shou-chuan Chuo's "Preface" to Violet (vol. 2), collected in Shui Ching's The Art of Eileen Chang's Novels (Taipei: Earth Publisher, 1973), 95. Chang later repeated this statement in a more public setting. Invited to the Women Writer's Group Discussion held by Magazine Monthly (Cha Chih Yuan K'an) in 1944, she again mentioned that "Maugham was one of her favorite authors." See Yu Ching's The Biography of Eileen Chang (Taipei: World Publisher, 1995), 113. Later commenting on the influence of British writers on her work in a personal letter (1977), Chang reconfirmed how much she "liked Maugham's short stories." See Edward Gunn's endnote in "Antiromanticism," The Unwelcome Muse: Chinese Literature in Shanghai and Peking 1937-1945 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 292. Back
Philip Holden comments: "In traditional literary criticism, and also in the implicit evaluative agenda of New Criticism, Maugham's work is lacking in texture and depth. Its symbolism is clumsily obvious, plots contrived, language polished and euphonious but tending toward the cliché. In Maugham's fiction, meaning is often on the surface, and the text itself needs little explication or annotation, in contrast to the modernist fiction and metaphysical poetry upon which British New Criticism cuts its analytic teeth. . . Maugham's short stories and novels were excluded on aesthetic grounds from the modern fiction canon at British and North American universities." Many scholars agree that, in spite of Maugham's flirtation with various provocative contemporary issues such as post-coloniality, "the woman question," and closet homosexuality, there is much left to be desired in his stylistic choices and formulaic approach to writing. See Philip Holden, Orienting Masculinity, Orienting Nation: W. Somerset Maugham's Exotic Fiction (London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 1. Also see Jacob Epstein's essay, "Is It All Right to Read Somerset Maugham?" in New Criterion 4.3, Nov. 1986, 1-13. Back
To a large extent, the "civilizing mission" of Warburton in "The Outstation" parallels that of Maugham's "hero" in his most famous story, "The Rain." Like Warburton, the protagonist of "The Rain" -- Davidson, a minister -- treats the natives as barbarians: "You see, they were so naturally depraved that they couldn't be brought to see their wickedness. We had to make sins out of what they thought were natural actions. We had to make it a sin, not only to commit adultery and to lie and thieve, but to expose their bodies, and to dance and not to come to church. I made it a sin for a girl to show her bosom and a sin for a man not to wear trousers." This tyrannical imposition of religious "rules" as the laws calls attention to a system of value judgments which seek to naturalize its principles and institute its presence. The conflict thus derives from the binary between "good naturalization" as moral redemption and "bad naturalization" as a sensual state of corruption. See "The Rain" in The East and the West (New York: The Literary Guild, 1934), 12. Although the conclusion of "The Rain" highlights the hypocrisy of Davidson's position, the overall structure of the story solidifies, nevertheless, the hierarchical opposition between the sensual natives and the rational colonists. Back
Maugham's Eurocentric viewpoint has been widely criticized by post-colonial theorists. Philip Holden, for example, points out that Maugham's narrative is "like a series of trompe l'oeil murals," which "depend for their harmonious effect upon a certain way of seeing, upon an alignment of reader, narrator, and object which is so assiduously created that it becomes difficult to find another angle of vision." See Orienting Masculinity, Orienting Nation: W. Somerset Maugham's Exotic Fiction (London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 15. It is this exclusion of other ways of seeing which shows an important limitation of Maugham's storytelling. Back
In his travel notebooks, Maugham has repeatedly stated that he thinks Europe is "the great centre[. . .] of civilization." Back
If not specified, the translation from Chinese into English is mine. Back
I borrow this analogy from Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. In her criticism of domineering sexism, Woolf states: "Women have served all these centuries as looking-glass possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size." See A Room of One's Own (New York and London: A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1957), 35. Back
Famously, "The Rain," "The Letter," "The Force of Circumstance," "The Red," and "The Yellow Streak" all follow a certain formulaic pattern to characterize the encounter between natives and colonialists. Back
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