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CGED Research Seminar Series

Progressive or Immoral: Representations of the Modern Girl in Print Media of 1930s Taiwan

Progressive or Immoral: Representations of the Modern Girl in Print Media of 1930s Taiwan

Speaker: Dr Lin Pei-yin, Associate Professor, School of Chinese, HKU

Respondent: Dr Elizabeth LaCouture, Assistant Professor, Gender Studies & History, School of Humanities, HKU
Moderator: Dr Leung Shuk Man, Assistant Professor, School of Chinese and School of Modern Languages and Cultures, HKU

Date: 23 September 2020 (Wednesday)
Time: 7:30 PM
Delivery: via Zoom

Taiwan’s modernity experience around the 1930s benefited from, and was well documented in the blossoming media culture of the decade. In addition to the image of ‘footloose and fancy-free cultured women’ and ‘sonic modernity’ shown in the 2003 documentary Viva Tonal: The Dance Age, the manifestations of modern girl, a byproduct of colonial modernity, are prevalent in magazines published in the 1930s Taiwan. In this talk, I examine the diverse visual and textual representations of the modern girl in three different publications—the women-oriented Taiwan Women's World, the general readership-intended Taiwan xinminbao, and the coterie magazine Taiwan Literature and Arts. I first explain the changing role of women under Japanese rule, introducing various new roles for women (such as café waitress and female student) at that time. I then analyse the differences between ‘modern girl’ and ‘new woman’, as well as ‘modern girl’ as a discursive term in East Asia with reference to the Confucian ‘wise wife and good mother’ ideology. Finally, I discuss the images of modern girl in selected works from the three aforementioned publications. I argue that there remains a high cost behind the modern girl’s glitz and cosmopolitan lifestyle, and in Taiwan’s case, modern girl is subject to ‘double colonisation’ caused by the Japanese rule and patriarchal social order. Cast recurrently between the two opposite views of modernity, modern girl often becomes a ready-to-be-appropriated trope of the male authors’ self-portraiture or ambivalence towards modernity.

Lin Pei-yin is Associate Professor in the School of Chinese at the University of Hong Kong. Prior to joining HKU, she taught at the University of Cambridge, National University of Singapore, and University of London (SOAS). She was a Harvard Yenching Visiting Scholar in 2015-2016, and has published widely on modern Chinese and Taiwanese literature. Recent publications include Colonial Taiwan: Negotiating Identities and Modernity through Literature (Brill, 2017) and two co-edited volumes: East Asian Transwar Popular Culture: Literature and Film from Taiwan and Korea (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) and Positioning Taiwan in a Global Context: Being and Becoming (Routledge, 2019). She is currently working on two projects--one on popular literature from Taiwan under Japanese rule, and the other on Taiwan's nativist fiction since the 1990s.

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