Year of Publication
Arts and Sciences
Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures
This work plays with cultural and conceptual juxtaposition through examining personal experiences in China and Taiwan as they relate to gender and sexuality. The poems are arranged to correspond to the sections of Ban Zhao’s Lessons for Women, a Han dynasty Chinese work that articulated conduct for women in relation to their husbands, with the addition of a new “lesson” of my own creation. This structure aims to enhance the tension between the feminine virtues expressed in the headings—values deemed important to women within a Confucian society by an ancient Chinese female thinker—and the values reflected in the experiences of a contemporary American woman in China and Taiwan. This structure is intended to complicate rather than streamline the concepts explored: this piece rejects the notion of a clear binary between traditional/modern, Chinese/American, feminine/masculine, and instead strives to cultivate inconsistency. In her analysis of women’s autobiographies, Sidonie Smith argues that female autobiographers are inseparable from their cultural and historical context and that “the woman who would write autobiography must uphold her reputation for female goodness or risk her immortal reputation.” This piece plays with this idea of “female goodness” and ultimately eschews it, presenting the self as an ambiguous character. Additionally, this work examines the dichotomy between the true self and the seen self. There are two “I”s in this piece: the seen self, reflecting the self perceived by others as “foreign woman” (I), and the true self (i). As the subject-as-narrator and subject-as-self intersect and trade narration within a poem, the gap between them becomes more apparent. Taken as a whole, this piece culminates in the essential lesson for women: expectations of gender and sexuality are transient, and womanhood is ultimately a slippery and malleable concept.
Nicholas, Bridget E., "女诫 Lessons for Women" (2017). Oswald Research and Creativity Competition. 6.