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Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Front Liter Stud Chin    2012, Vol. 6 Issue (4) : 490-510     DOI: 10.3868/s010-001-012-0028-7
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Behind “Burning”: Women Writers’ Self-Censorship and Self-Promotion
Yanning Wang()
Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1540, USA
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This article examines the phenomenon of women writers burning their own manuscripts, which took place during the Ming-Qing period. By analyzing women’s poems and biographies of women, this study explores the reasons and implications behind “burning.” The self-censorship embodied by “burning” was geared towards protecting female virtue or enabling women writers to express their intense personal emotions while promoting an ideal public self-image. For example, due to their gender and class-consciousness, upper-class women tended to portray themselves as virtuous ladies, whereas, in contrast, courtesan writers were fascinated with the power of love. However, the act of burning manuscripts could both lead to partial loss of an author’s works and imbue her writing with the tantalizing aura of an unfulfilled promise, thereby immortalizing the manuscripts that had almost been turned to ashes and publicizing the work of the formerly obscure author. In this sense, the “burning” is transformed into a literary conceit which promotes women’s writings instead of destroying them. This article demonstrates the dual functions of manuscript burning by Ming-Qing women: self-censorship and self-promotion.

Keywords burning manuscripts      women      Ming-Qing period      self-censorship      self-promotion     
Corresponding Authors: Yanning Wang,   
Issue Date: 05 December 2012
 Cite this article:   
Yanning Wang. Behind “Burning”: Women Writers’ Self-Censorship and Self-Promotion[J]. Front Liter Stud Chin, 2012, 6(4): 490-510.
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