Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Allen, Annette C.

Author's Keywords

Chen Ran; Postmodern feminism; Amy Tan; Mother-daughter relationship; Identity; Sisterhood


Feminism in literature; Self-perception in literature; Women in literature; Chen, Ran, 1962-; Tan, Amy


With increasing cross-cultural infiltrations and accelerated interflows among people of all nationalities in this globalized world, the focus of comparative literature has experienced a shift from traditional Eurocentric cannons to a broader space incorporating literary works from marginalized cultures in its exploration of both particularities and commonalities. This dissertation aims to address the loss and reconstruction of women's self-identities as reflected in the fictions of contemporary Chinese woman writer Chen Ran and Chinese American woman writer Amy Tan. Drawing ideas from identity theories and postmodern feminist theories, the author compares the major motifs, rhetorical devices and writing strategies of the two writers. While conducting a comparative textual analysis of the three overriding themes including mother-daughter relationship, heterosexual relations and sisterhood, the author explores the evolution of literary representations on each theme in both Chinese and American literary traditions. Socio-historical parameters in cultural studies are also considered for a thorough understanding of such evolution that helps explain the similarities and differences between the two writers and the significant roles they play in their respective cultures. Apart from thematic comparisons, metaphorical implications in the protagonists' dreams and illusions, the imageries of the mirror and birds are excavated to pinpoint the heroines' subconscious identity crisis and an awakening female subjectivity in the fictional worlds of Chen Ran and Amy Tan. Based on a careful elaboration of Chen Ran's personalized writing with a "gender-transcendent consciousness" and Amy Tan's talk-story narrative of matrilineal tracing within specific social and history contexts, the author attempts to prove that both Chen Ran and Amy Tan could be interpreted from postmodern feminist perspectives in terms of their experimentation of a female discourse and deconstructive attacks on gender categories. Through personal narrations of a woman's bodily experiences and existentialist modern predicament in Chen's fictions as well as survival stories of Chinese American immigrants extending generations of mothers and daughters, the two writers have expressed their shared humanistic ideals for women's spiritual independence free from inequality and discrimination.