An Emotional Illness? The Freudian Hysteria Discourse in Republican China (78374)

Session Information: Gender Studies and Feminism
Session Chair: Shu Yang

Sunday, 26 May 2024 16:05
Session: Session 4
Room: Room 705
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

From the year 2020, with widespread eruptions of viruses, vengeance, and violence, the term xiesidili (a Chinese transliteration of “hysteria”) experienced an upswelling of popularity in Chinese-speaking societies. As such, the present provides an ideal backdrop for revisiting the historical moment when this neologism was first imported to Republican China from the West. This paper addresses this understudied topic and asks three fundamental questions: As the Western world heatedly discussed hysteria in the early decades of the twentieth century, how did Chinese thinkers react to this trend? Whether and how did the disease/discourse of hysteria function to bridge China’s traditional medical epistemology with Western categories of medicine, science, and the body/mind? How, in an extensive sense, did hysteria become a cultural emotional symptom of modern China that formed and fashioned artistic articulations of fin-de-siècle anxieties and fantasies?

This paper starts from an overview of translations of Freud’s ideas on hysteria by Japanese and Chinese intellectuals in the early twentieth century. By focusing on the well-received psychologist Zhu Guangqian (1897-1986) and the controversial sexologist Zhang Jingsheng (1888-1970), I analyze how the translation of hysteria as an “emotional illness” (qinggan bing) reshapes the current epistemology of emotionality, desire, and sexuality that intersected with the May Fourth gendered discourse. The paper then closely reads how this theoretical reformulation inspires the images of the new (wo)man who collectively suffer from classic hysteria, being either paralyzed, muted, or abject, in literature of the Creation Society (chuangzao she) and even some new cultural canons.

Shu Yang, Western Michigan University, United States

About the Presenter(s)
Professor Shu Yang is a University Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer at Western Michigan University in United States

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00