Arts and Culture
Debates over the relationship between feminism and socialism have yet to be settled amongst scholars: while some regard both as contested and incompatible (Hartmann, 1979), others see the combination of both as an international solidarity that can eliminate gender and class oppression, transcending national and linguistic boundaries (Vogel, 2013). This complex relationship is one of the major concerns for women writers in socialist states – how does literature bring feminist and socialist visions together while demonstrating the complexity and struggles therein? In this paper, I will examine the tension, intertwinement and interaction of socialism and feminism in literature by comparing the depiction of women in the literary works of the Chinese writer Ding Ling and the East German author Christa Wolf. In Ding Ling’s novel In the Hospital, she strives for gender equality via collaborative work between men and women, while incorporating this feminist task into the agenda of socialist revolution. Christa Wolf’s novel The Quest for Christa T., by contrast, explores female friendship as a means of overcoming stagnation and cynicism in the GDR. I ask how both authors articulate their concerns and criticism of inadequate gender practices in socialist states through the lens of women’s perspectives. In doing so, this paper offers an insight into the way their writings negotiate women’s concern with the official narrative of life in socialist states and the extent to which these socialist feminist writings illuminate alternative ways to conceptualise transnational and world literature in contemporary scholarship.