Eileen Chang (張愛玲) as shaped by cultural dynamics

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Eileen Chang (張愛玲) as shaped by cultural dynamics

The Creative Arts Department of the School of Arts and Social Sciences has embarked on various types of research in recent years. Supported by the Faculty Development Scheme of the Research Grants Council, Department Head Dr Rebecca Leung Mo-ling has taken an alternative look at the enduring ‘Eileen Chang phenomenon’.

Chang quickly rose to fame after her work was first published in Shanghai in 1943. Due to the popularity of her screenplays, her influence soon extended beyond the literary field, making her a cultural icon in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan. While there is little doubt to Chang’s literary achievements, popular criticisms of her works and her personal life have been more controversial.
 
Instead of adding to the plethora of literary studies on the widely-researched writer, Dr Leung has adopted a sociological approach with the aim of demonstrating how the image of the phenomenal female writer has been shaped by the dominant national and cultural imagination of specific times and spaces. ‘Many of the accusations against Chang, of her being a traitor, for example, are without grounds,’ says Dr Leung. ‘If you look at the media coverage on Chang in Shanghai in the 1940s, you’ll see a sudden, almost universal shift in criticism after 1945, the year in which the Chinese victory in the Second Sino-Japanese War put an end to the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. This reveals how the popular imagination of a writer can be caught up in social dynamics.’
 
Her project involves compiling a massive database of newspaper articles on Eileen Chang from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong from 1943 to 2016, which contributes to providing invaluable alternative resources for the growing studies on the writer. The insights gained from this study have also enriched her teaching. ‘Creative Writing and Film Arts students don’t just study the craft of writing,’ she notes. ‘They have to grasp the related theoretical frameworks such as literary criticism, cultural studies and sociology as well.’
 
For more details about the research results, please refer to the following publications generated from the project: