Journal article Open Access

Last Empress Fiction and Asian Neo-Victorianism

Ho, Elizabeth

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  "conceptdoi": "10.5281/zenodo.2628453", 
  "created": "2019-04-04T13:54:06.512474+00:00", 
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    "description": "<p>This article claims that &lsquo;Last Empress&rsquo; fiction about the Empress Dowager Cixi reveals the postcolonial ethics of Anglophone neo-Victorianism. &lsquo;Last Empress&rsquo; texts naturally tend to be bookended by the narrative of a na&iuml;ve yet ambitious teenage concubine entering the imperial palace and the image of the Empress Dowager, as depicted in Bernardo Bertolucci&rsquo;s 1987 film, <em>The Last Emperor</em>, rotting on her deathbed. This emphasis on Cixi&rsquo;s ageing body as a metaphor for China&rsquo;s perceived humiliations in the past manages and contains, for Western readers, a similar commodification of &lsquo;China&rsquo; as a new economic and political powerhouse and brand. This article reads a range of &lsquo;Last Empress&rsquo; texts from Anchee Min&rsquo;s popular historical fiction, <em>Empress Orchid</em> (2004) and <em>The Last Empress</em> (2007), to metafictional critiques such as Da Chen&rsquo;s <em>My Last Empress</em> (2012) and Linda Jaivin&rsquo;s <em>The Empress Lover</em> (2014), to the Singaporean blockbuster musical, <em>Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress</em> (2002), and situates them amongst arguments about race, ageing and neo-Orientalism. Cixi&rsquo;s continued visibility in biographies, fiction, and film recasts conventional understandings of neo-Victorianism as neo-Victorian gerontology: the problematics of rejuvenating (women in) the past, (post-)feminist &lsquo;time crisis&rsquo;, and new kinds of invisibility for women past and present. At the same time, &lsquo;Last Empress&rsquo; fiction offers opportunities to reflect on the geographical pressures Asia can put on the &lsquo;neo-&rsquo; in the term &lsquo;neo-Victorian&rsquo; and the difficulties of performing truly global neo-Victorian readings.</p>", 
    "language": "eng", 
    "title": "Last Empress Fiction and Asian Neo-Victorianism", 
    "license": {
      "id": "CC-BY-4.0"
    "journal": {
      "volume": "11", 
      "issue": "2", 
      "pages": "64-90", 
      "title": "Neo-Victorian Studies"
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    "publication_date": "2019-04-04", 
    "creators": [
        "affiliation": "University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong", 
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