Women in Truyền Kỳ Mạn Lục and Truyền Kỳ Tân Phả: A Feminist Perspective

Author: Hien Thu Do (University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Vietnam)
Speaker: Hien Thu Do
Topic: Language, Gender, Sexuality
CALA 2020 General Session


In medieval Vietnam, Confucianism constituted an ideology central to all society and social structure, and thus pervasively affected the social, cultural, political, and familial roles of women within Vietnamese society. Works, which focused on women’s roles, and grounded in Confucianism, such as Truyền kỳ mạn lục of Nguyễn Dữ (16th century) and Truyền Kỳ Tân Phả of Đoàn Thị Điểm (18th century) offer two collections of strange tales in Vietnamese medieval literature. Works such as these have been immensely influential until the present.

In this paper, I consider ways in which the roles of women shifted, predicated on work in the era between when the stories of Nguyễn Dữ emerged to when the stories of Đoàn Thị Điểm were published. The study employs a feminist reading of these works, and thus their influence from the 16th Century to the 18th century. The study thus observes the influences of these works from the perspective of feminism. For this, I include analyses of differences between male and female authors when writing about women. Finally, I expose differences between the women characters in these strange tales and in other genres of literature of the time.

The transnational influences to work and society at the time are considered in this study, as Confucianism and women’s roles were shaped by demographic movements of the time. Similarly, these works spread throughout the region which is modern day Vietnam, and hence the multi ethnic influences to mediate these works in society became quite transnational, yet in the period before national unity in Vietnam.

Keywords: Vietnamese medieval literature, confucianism, strange story, Nguyễn Dữ, Đoàn Thị Điểm