Screwed by fate? The prostitute and the critique of liberalism in Backed against the sea

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Abstract

Wang Wenxing’s Bei hai de ren 背海的人 (Backed against the sea) deals with the personal and social danger of undisciplined desire in the context of a country undergoing capitalist modernization (both industrialization and urbanization). It deals with desire in terms of Buddhism and liberalism. This chapter argues that the novel represents liberalism as a more capacious container for desire than Buddhism, and it offers a not entirely negative sketch of the bourgeois family. Wang Wenxing critiqued the traditional Chinese family, and the family in general, in his first novel, Jia bian 家變 (Family catastrophe). Backed Against the Sea shows the reader what fate might have in store for a vulnerable, dissolute person who is so worried about getting tied down that he never forms a family on Taiwan.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReading Wang Wenxing : critical essays
EditorsShu-Ning SCIBAN, Ihor PIDHAINY
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherCornell University East Asia Program
Chapter3
Pages53-77
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781942242789
ISBN (Print)9781939161581, 9781939161789
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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STERK, D. (2015). Screwed by fate? The prostitute and the critique of liberalism in Backed against the sea. In S-N. SCIBAN, & I. PIDHAINY (Eds.), Reading Wang Wenxing : critical essays (pp. 53-77). Cornell University East Asia Program.