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Cultutal Nihilism, Historical Agnosticism, and the Illusion of Salvation: Cross-Cultural (Re-)Writing in Eileen Chang's Love in a Fallen City

Wang Xiaoping

With a meticulous examination of Zhang’s cross-cultural writing and rewriting (or appropriation) of O’Neill’s imagery of the Magna Mater in Love in a Fallen City, this article suggests that the archetypal motif of Zhang’s stories is individualism in crisis, which leads to, and is also part of the reason for, an anxiety about self-identity. Due to the obstinate persistence of traditional forces with their diehard ethical-moral conventions and to various domestic and international conflicts that are literally and rhetorically referred to as “war,” a bourgeois rationality and subjectivity is difficult to establish. The predominant thematic focus of Zhang’s stories is a matrimonial anxiety by which middle-class women aim to cash in on any opportunity to unabashedly transcend their class status to secure financial security and a boost in their social status. In its response to the crisis of marriage and love as social institution, this anxiety articulates, crystallizes, and projects the social-political dilemma and predicament of this class.