Writing about women in ghost stories: subversive representations of ideal femininity in “Nie Xiaoqian” and “Luella Miller”

Yi Zheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

On the one hand, because of the double historical prejudices from literary criticism against ghost stories and women’s writing, little attention has been paid to investigate the ideals of femininity in women’s ghost stories in nineteenth-century America. This article examines “Luella Miller,” a short story by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, who indirectly but sharply criticized the ideal of femininity in her time by creating an exaggerated example of the cult of feminine fragility. On the other hand, although extensive research has been done on Chinese ghost stories, especially on the ghost heroines in Pu Songling’s Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, there are few studies comparing the Chinese and the American ones. By comparing “Luella Miller” and Pu’s “Nie Xiaoqian,” this article does not primarily aim to list the similarities and differences between the Chinese and the American ideals of femininity, but to provide fresh insights into how both Freeman and Pu capitalized on the literary possibilities of the supernatural, because only in ghost stories they could write about women in ways impossible in “high literature.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-766
Number of pages16
JournalNeohelicon
Volume47
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

User-Defined Keywords

  • Ideals of femininity
  • Ghost stories
  • Pu Songling
  • “Nie Xiaoqian”
  • Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
  • “Luella Miller”

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