Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (2.1 MB)

Gender and subjective agency: transformations of Mulan in Chinese, Sinophone and transnational contexts

Download (2.1 MB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 20:32 authored by Yu-Chi Liu
The main objective of the research is to investigate gender representations of the crossdressing heroine in the Mulan retellings, produced in China and Sinophone regions, namely Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, and in non-Sinophone regions, including the United States, Japan, France and Belgium. The thesis examines the Mulan texts, dating from the 10th century to the year 2009, in a variety of genres: poetry, novel, opera, spoken drama, film, picture book, comics, animation and television serials for both adult and child readers. The study situates the Mulan texts historically and contextually, and explores the transformation of gender images of Mulan in relation to Confucian values, modernity, diaspora, cultural consumption, and more importantly, to female subjective agency. Drawing upon Judith Butler's gender performance theory, this study also aims to investigate the extent to which the heroine is enabled to obtain agency through the instability of gender identities and whether the heroine can escape the Confucian metanarrative of the Mulan story particularly in the modern texts and transnational texts. (Un)surprisingly, the emancipation of the heroine is not in conformity with the feminist movements in modern time; there can be a significant backlash in the gender image of Mulan in some modern texts. Also, most of the transnational texts, though possibly influenced by a western feminist point of view, often adopt an Orientalist view of China and Chineseness, thereby constructing a seemingly subversive but in practice a traditional heroine. However, the most feminist retellings in comparison come from three picture books for young readers. The three feminist texts, one from Asian America, one from Taiwan, the other from China, suggest that the emancipation of the cross-dressing heroine in a patriarchal narrative is possible.


Table of Contents

Gender and morality: Confucian Mulan -- Gender and nation: multiple-faceted Mulan -- Gender and image of China: Mulan in diasporic and international contexts -- Gender and visual image: Mulan in picture books and comics -- Americanizing and globalizing Mulan: Disney animation and other animated cartoon versions -- Towards a hybrid and modern heroine: Mulan in television serials and the latest movie -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: p. 202-212 October 2011

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Dept. of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

John Stephens

Additional Supervisor 1

Robyn McCallum


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Yu-Chi Liu 2012.




1 online resource (viii, 218 p.)

Former Identifiers