Yuzhu Sun

Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Yvonne Ivory

Second Advisor

Krista Van Fleit


This dissertation examines how eleven British intellectuals, who lived in or traveled to China from the early to mid twentieth century, represent Chinese spaces and how Chinese spaces shape their identities. This group of writers includes WilliamSomerset Maugham, Robert William Swallow, Ann Bridge, Stella Benson, Maurice Denton Welch, Harold Acton, Osbert Sitwell, Peter Quennell, Christopher Isherwood, W.H. Auden, and J.G. Ballard. Multiple genres, including travel writing, diaries, poetry, and fiction, based on the authors’ real experiences in China constitute the research corpus. Current scholarship has researched these works fromhistorical andsocio-political viewpoints, but the spatial perspective has been ignored. Edward Soja’s Thirdspace is constructed through his reading of Henry Lefebvre’s spatial trialectics. Soja develops Lefebvre’s conception into an-Other space, in which alternative possibilities beyond the binary logic exist. Drawing upon Soja’s concept of “Thirdspace,” the project brings space as a critical means to supplement current social and historical perspectives and addresses different responses to the conventional framework of spatial binaries. The works written by British intellectuals based ontheir real experiences not only reflect their controlling gaze on Chinese spaces as a means of enhancing their knowledge but also explain the process of the role of Chinese spaces in reshaping the cultural identity of individual British intellectuals. I argue that the spatial imagination constructed in British intellectuals’ works, whichis marked by their social, economic, cultural, and political identities, is in a constant process of negotiation. These British intellectuals’ travel writings in and of themselves represent an in-between territory, in which things are in continuous movement beyond dualism and in incessant compromise. In the constantly shiftingprocess of compromises, British intellectuals’ different class, gender, and cultural identities are all at work, and their identities are shaped by Chinese spaces as well.


© 2022, Yuzhu Sun