Girls with Big Ideas: Gidget and Song of Youth
Published within a year of each other in the late 1950s, Yang Mo’s Song of Youth and Frederick Kohner’s Gidget became wildly successful cultural phenomena, one in China and the other in the United States. Both were made into films shortly after publication, expanding their influence. Considering the two novels together—one a hefty 600-page book that shows a young woman’s transformation into a revolutionary, and the other a slim 120-page book that revolves around a young woman chasing waves and boys—leads to an uncanny comparison. Lin Daojing and Gidget similarly defy the gender expectations of their environments, and show the fundamental characteristics of an optimistic, progress-based subjectivity under two radically different social systems.
Wendy Larson is Professor Emerita of East Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Oregon. She received her PhD in Oriental Languages from the University of California, Berkeley. A specialist on modern Chinese literature and film, Prof Larson’s research monographs include From Ah Q to Lei Feng: Freud and Revolutionary Spirit in 20th Century China (Stanford UP 2009); Women and Writing in Modern China (Stanford UP 1998); and Literary Authority and the Chinese Writer: Ambivalence and Autobiography (Duke UP 1991). Larson translated Wang Meng’s modernist novel Bolshevik Salute (Washington UP 1991), and co-edited two volumes, Gender in Motion: Divisions of Labor and Cultural Change in Late Imperial and Modern China (Rowman and Littlefield 2005), and Inside Out: Modernism and Postmodernism in Chinese Literary Culture (Aarhus UP 1993). Broadly speaking, her research investigates the negotiations of Chinese filmmakers and writers with the conditions of modernity and post-modernity. Larson’s forthcoming monograph is entitled Zhang Yimou: Globalization and the Subject of Culture (Cambria Press, 2017). This research analyzes Zhang’s films as investigations into the possibilities for Chinese culture within the emerging global environment. She presently is working on a monograph comparing optimism under capitalism and socialism.
On Zoom in English
23:00 Beijing Time on Wednesday February 2, 2022