Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Love, Gender and Reception in Double Seventh Literature
by Friends, Mary Ellen, Ph.D., Yale University, 2019, 305; 13809352
Abstract (Summary)

This project examines the development of the Chinese Double Seventh or “Herdboy and Weaver Girl” literary tradition in the context of reader reception and as it relates to gender. Chapter One reviews origin poems of the Double Seventh poetic tradition and identifies four traditional categories of Double Seventh love poems: “Glorious Meeting,” “Bittersweet Reunion,” “Misery of Separation” and “Vows of Eternal Love.” Chapter Two explores the way that poets—particularly the ones scholars have traditionally identified as “great,” but also some whose work lies outside the traditional canon—both reinforce and subvert traditional Double Seventh categories through the laws of intertextuality. The chapter additionally addresses problems of reception and gender in light of a traditional inclination to read Chinese poetry autobiographically as well as the intensification of that inclination when both the author of a Double Seventh poem and the poem’s persona are women. Chapter Three compares the literary use of the Herdboy and Weaver Girl Stars to the use in Chinese literature of other celestial objects, in particular the Moon Goddess Chang E, and the estranged star-brothers Shang (Antares) and Shen (Orion). The comparisons suggest why poems (even ones not written on the Festival of the Double Seventh) might feature Herdboy and Weaver Girl themes, and how the choice influences reader reception. Chapter Four focuses primarily on literary themes of the Weaver Girl and her weaving. It includes a Weaver-focused rereading of texts of literary criticism and writing about “women’s work,” and it offers a new reading of the character Qiaojie (“Clever Girl”) in Story of the Stone (Dream of the Red Chamber). It investigates the ability of women to identify with the talented or clever Weaver Girl because of her work, in light of ongoing conversations about what sort of industry a talented girl or woman ought to pursue, and with respect to the ways in which the Chinese literary tradition is set up to allow women (especially in the late Imperial period) to connect with the Weaver Girl by imagining her textiles as texts and her golden needle as a metaphor for a writing brush.

The dissertation as a whole shows how later Double Seventh poems, through the laws of intertextuality, critically influence readers’ reception of origin texts and imbue them with meaning that is almost certainly more complex than the meaning received by their earliest readers. It shows that, over time, the original Weaver Girl’s “unfinished pattern” may be received by readers as metaphor for patterns of words—and especially women’s words—on silk or paper. The project also describes a unique four-part relationship between the Double Seventh and women writers. First, the central Double Seventh figure of the Heavenly Weaver Girl creates for women an almost literal connection to the common trope in Chinese literary theory of weaving as a metaphor for writing. Second, the Weaver Girl, when depicted as ceaselessly working, provides a model of productive virtue that literate women can point to whether they set aside traditional household tasks and devote themselves single-mindedly to the weaving of words or, as was the case for many women in late Imperial China, engaged both in textile-creating activities and in writing. Third, the relationship between Seventh Night and women writers is made stronger through the double (“Lover’s Night” and “Begging for Skills Night”) nature of traditional Double Seventh festivities because the confluence of activities eventually opens the way for women to beg the Weaver Girl for skill in writing. Fourth, the Weaver Girl Star, as an anthropomorphized producer of “Heaven’s Patterns,” is connected to the human writer’s act of manifesting those same patterns in the form of poetry or other literature. The Heavenly Weaver Girl is thus not just any weaver whose textile work might be interpreted metaphorically as textual production; for women readers and writers she is the most identifiable creator of the very patterns that, in literary theory, provide fundamental inspiration for the creation of literature.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Chang, Kang-i Sun
Commitee: Lu, Tina, Saussy, Haun
School: Yale University
Department: East Asian Languages and Literatures
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Gender studies, Womens studies, Asian literature
Keywords: Chinese women writers, Chinese Double Seventh, Intertextuality, Reception, Herdboy and Weaver Girl
Publication Number: 13809352
ISBN: 9781085777599
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