Tingting Hu

Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Jie Guo


Tripartite post-Mao forces of social stratification, gender reconfiguration, and media transformation led to the emergence of women’s multi-media narratives of subaltern experience in and beyond China. This dissertation investigates how these representations of subaltern experience are commodified in different media transnationally. How is women’s subaltern experience represented differently in print media, film, and digital media in the epoch of transnational commodification? Women authors examined in this dissertation make use of, negotiate with, resist against, or partly submit to the existing power structures in the process of commodification. Chapter one examines Hong Ying’s 虹影 (1962-) two autobiographical novels. It studies a woman author’s representation of subalternity as well as agency entangled in her attaining of economic and cultural capitals in a (male) elite dominated print ecology. Chapter two considers Guo Xiaolu’s 郭晓橹 (1973-) cross-cultural film and novel, which represent women’s multi-faceted subalternity as they struggle in the exploitative and hierarchical Euro/urban-centric capitalist global currents. Chapter three probes grassroots women’s vlog (video blog 视频博客) narratives of their gendered life experience against the tide of market-driven short-video economy. I argue that the commodification of subaltern experience through different media displays women authors’ resistance against, negotiation with, or sometimes complicity in existing power structures. Women authors such as Hong Ying and Guo Xiaolu pursued elite status to have their stories better heard. However, gaining elite status often requires a degree of commodification in exchange, which may get in the way of in-depth representations of subaltern experience. This commodification tends to reinforce existing power structures even if the author truly resists against the very power structure from which she seeks recognition or capitals. For grassroots authors, the increasingly affordable and accessible digital media enable a mass scale of commodification of their short-video practices that may bring life-changing opportunities including economic gain and celebrity through public media coverage. However, this process comes with numerous compromises due to authors’ need for economic and symbolic capital and the profit-driven nature of digital platforms. The environment and media available to women authors set the limit of freedom and precondition what kind of voice they can make visible.


© 2022, Tingting Hu

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