Dissertation > Literature > Chinese Literature > The body of literature reviews and research > Novel > New Novel

A Transitivity Study of the Feminist Features in the Novella Hunger

Author QinJunHong
Tutor WangShouYuan;ZhangDeLu
School Shandong University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords feminist Stylistics systemic functional linguistics transitivity analysis
CLC I207.42
Type PhD thesis
Year 2009
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Contextualized Stylistics managed to gather strength in the late 1970s and blossom in various directions, which brings forth two highly promising fields of study, i.e. critical Stylistics and feminist Stylistics. Critical Stylistics adheres to the Constructivist view of language, yet considers language not as a transparent carrier of meanings but as "a part of, as well as a consequence of, social process" (Fowler et al, 1979: 26). As for feminist Stylistics, it is the strongest successor of critical Stylistics with more specific concerns of unmasking patriarchal ideologies and denaturalizing patriarchal assumptions. Feminist stylisticians usually take advantage of Hallidayan systemic functional linguistics (shortened as SFL) to examine critically the representations of women in literature and popular culture, and work towards a feminist awareness, which might lead to resistance, and ultimately, linguistic and/or social change (Weber, 1996: 5).This dissertation explores male dominance concealed in literary discourse by way of transitivity analysis, an effective tool inherent in SFL and of adequate use to feminist stylistic analysis. The sample selected here is the novella entitled Hunger (1998) in its entirety, the title work of the novel collection debut of the Chinese American female writer - Lan Samantha Chang. To improve accuracy and reliability of the present linguistic inquiry, we exploit a highly acclaimed statistical instrument by name of Systemic Coder in the project, which can instantly work out accurate proportions of each process within the specified textual section after one puts the stretch of words in it and assigns proper labels to each clause.The overriding aim of the current investigation has been to carry out a series of principled and fully explicated transitivity analyses on the basis of powerful statistical work. These studies are intended to demonstrate by figures how men and women of different mutual relationship and social status represent themselves in terms of transitivity structure in different situations, so as to deepen our understanding of gender discrimination in literary discourse. The dissertation consists of six chapters. The first chapter begins with an introduction of Lan Chang and her novella Hunger, indicating the reason why it is chosen as the subject of the present study, which is followed by objectives and research questions of the dissertation, then a brief account is given of the analyzing tool, Systemic Coder, which precedes the overall layout of the dissertation. The second chapter probes into how women are depicted in Chinese American literature, as well as how feminist critics work to explore literature from different perspectives, elucidating strengths and weaknesses of each approach in issue. It justifies our turning to feminist Stylistics for a detailed stylistic analysis of literary works. At last, we have reviewed how systemic functional grammar (shortened as SFG) has been applied to discourse analysis. Chapter Three addresses theoretical foundations of the present study, i.e. SFL, in particular transitivity system and suggests a model of feminist stylistic analysis in terms of transitivity structure. Chapter Four and Chapter Five are devoted to detailed feminist stylistic analysis as well as interpretation. Chapter Four conducts transitivity analyses of eight typical excerpts through the whole text on the part of different characters, pursuing their function in representing gender discrimination. Chapter Five attempts to explain these linguistic observations by locating the text within situational context and cultural context. Chapter Six offers a summary of the study, with regard to main findings and limitations of the study, suggesting prospects for future research.The major contributions of the dissertation are in three respects:Firstly, the employment of Systemic Coder (version 4.5) developed in 2002 to transitivity analysis contributes on the one hand to transitivity research by improving its credibility, on the other to the Coder in its own right by proving its applicability in discourse analysis. Converging statistical measures with qualitative elaboration is a promising way of stylistic analysis, which is also where we are to proceed in future.Secondly, we have found that the manifestation of feminism is more varied than believed in the past. It is not only manifested as the male dominance in power and action, but also as the self-expression by the female character herself, for example, movements by self with no effects on others, thoughts by self in a sense of self-indulgence and dream, self-reflection which is not disclosed to others, and more importantly self-protection in most of the cases. These serve to confine the woman to herself instead of acting or interacting in the society. Furthermore, its variation of manifestation is also shown in her relation with others, especially a male character. For example, it is manifested as actions in the service of men on her part, as actions to attract the male character’s attention or affection, as actions or doing things as stipulated by her social role as a wife or daughter, or as actions or doing things as a result of request or order on the part of the male character, or finally as actions or behaviors towards the physical and natural world only.Thirdly, we have also found that feminism can be realized by transitivity structures in at least three major ways.1. It may be directly realized by the syntactic imagery or configuration created by the type or types of transitivity structures, such as feminism manifested as effective actions by intransitive material and behavioral processes, as self-reflections by mental processes with herself as phenomenon or with the physical world as phenomenon, etc, or as the effective transitivity structures produced by the male characters.2. More subtly, feminism can be embodied in the meaning of vocabulary, especially the verbal groups, such as submission, serving others in the relation between the verbal group that realizes the process and the nominal group that realizes the goal; or self-indulgence in the verbal group that realizes mental process or behavioral process.3. It might also be realized by the interaction between mood and transitivity. Mood is a level up the transitivity structure. For example, the effective actions of the female character may be the result of the requests or orders of the male character realized by imperative clauses.

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