Monday, March 27, 2017

"San Mao: Oasis or Mirage? The Phenomenon of the 'Chinese Woman of the Desert'" at Pitt, March 31.

The University of Pittsburgh's Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures will present graduate student Sandi Ward's colloquium "San Mao: Oasis or Mirage? The Phenomenon of the 'Chinese Woman of the Desert'" on March 31.
San Mao (三毛, 1943-1991) was one of the most popular writers in the Chinese-speaking world during the 1970s and '80s. Her most popular works concern life with her Spanish husband in Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) and the Canary Islands. These tales portray San Mao as an independent, resourceful wanderer making a home for herself wherever she goes, and interacting with overlooked members of society. San Mao's self-depiction as a representative of Chinese culture spreading goodwill throughout the world found a receptive audience in 1970s Taiwan, with her fame spreading to mainland China in the 1980s. These waves of enthusiasm for San Mao's work were dubbed "San Mao Fever" or the "San Mao Phenomenon."

"San Mao: Oasis or Mirage? The Phenomenon of the 'Chinese Woman of the Desert'" explores San Mao's popularity using Raymond Williams' term "structures of feeling." Williams used "structures of feeling" to describe the state of experiences as they emerge and develop; they help identify a generation or a spirit of an era. I argue that San Mao and her readers shared an affinity with a particular structure of feeling emphasizing freedom, equality, and self-expression, at a time when readers in Taiwan and mainland China faced government oppression and isolation from the wider world. Meanwhile, critics disdained San Mao in part because they inherently lacked access to this structure of feeling.
The talk begins at 12:00 pm in 4130 Posvar Hall (map) and is free and open to the public.

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