Honours theses in the Department of Chinese Studies

Featured thesis

Performing the Chinese Nora:
Male-constructed Nora figures in Lu Xun's Regret for the Past and Mao Dun's Creation.
Victoria Sanderson, May 2010 (Supervisor: Dr Yiyan Wang)

This thesis examines Lu Xun's Regret for the Past and Mao Dun's Creation as examples of the significant role that the main character of Ibsen's play A Doll's House, Nora, played in male-authored twentieth-century Chinese literature. As the years progressed, Nora and her story were appropriated by writers who explored her possible fate in the Chinese context. These authors, largely members of the intellectual elite and predominantly male, constructed the Chinese Nora as a literary trope who reflected women's new-found liberties and Chinese society's modernisation. Judith Butler‘s notions of gender performativity and Simone de Beauvoir‘s analysis of female alterity will be employed to demonstrate that the writing (and thus controlling) of liberated Chinese Noras became metonymic of a process of cultural assertion on the part of the male intellectual elite. The use of male narrators and protagonists ensured female silence within fictional works, and so too inadvertently guaranteed that the narrative settings in which Chinese Noras were liberated were dominated by men. It is shown here that despite their iconoclastic calls for the reform of attitudes to gender roles and identities, the male intellectuals' literary works betray their tendency to contain the female Other within the masculine discourses of their narratives. Thus in Regret for the Past and Creation, Chinese Noras, while ostensibly liberated and modern, are ultimately constructed within the narrative as a female Other for the articulation of the modern male‘s subjectivity.

Download the complete thesis.

Other recent theses

2009 - 2010

  • Chen, Hansong. Old Wine in New Bottles: Tradition and Modernity in the Lyrics of Chinese Pop Songs, 1927-1949. (Supervision: Dr Yiyan Wang)
  • Cheung, Anthony. The overseas Chinese in South Vietnam and the Kuomintang’s quest for political legitimacy: rhetoric and ideology in relations between the Republics of China (Taipei) and Vietnam (Saigon), 1955-1975. (Supervisor: Dr Derek Herforth)
  • Lam, Iris Robyn. A New Time and Place for Myth: Mythic Elements in Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum and Big Breasts and Wide Hips. (Supervision: Dr Yiyan Wang)
  • Taylor, Jacob. Tackling Rugby in China. (Supervisors: Dr Yiyan Wang and Dr Terry Woronov, Anthropology)


  • Beaton, Robert. Morality in China: Sources of Conflicting Legitimacy. (Supervision: Dr David Bray)
  • Brown, Kelly. Inflaming Nationalism: Reimagining the Nation and Reinforcing the State through the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay. (Supervision: Dr Yiyan Wang)
  • McDonald, Julian. Two Wrongs Make a Right: The Policies of the Northern Wei and the Formation of the Rouran Khaghanate. (Supervisor: Dr Derek Herforth. Because no cross-disciplinary topic could be identified, Julian submitted a second thesis in Ancient History for Joint Honours.)


  • Clark, Alejandrino. The Morals and Mortals of Civil War: A Comparative Study of De Bello Civili and Sanguo Yanyi. (Co-supervised by Dr Derek Herforth and Ms Frances Muecke, Classics)
  • Zheng, Harry. Guests and instructors: a study of the image of the private secretary in the Qing Dynasty. (Supervisor: Prof Helen Dunstan)


  • McElvenny, James. The diachronic evolution of directional constructions in Chinese. (Co-supervised by Dr Derek Herforth and Dr Jane Simpson, Linguistics. University medal)
  • Michael, Jennifer. On the use of ‘set phrases’ (chengyu) and proverbs in the early prose works and speeches of Mao Zedong. (approximate title; Supervisor: Dr Derek Herforth)


  • Jones, Anthony E.S. The semiotics of the Dao: abduction as a strategy for understanding the “Inner Chapters” of the Zhuangzi. (Supervisor: Dr Derek Herforth. University medal)
  • Pike, Tyler. Shijing interpretation during the Warring States Period. (Co-supervised by Dr Tim Chan and Dr Derek Herforth)