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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: Eileen Chang at the University of Toronto

Date & Time: Friday, September 30, 2022 (6pm – 7:30pm)
Venue: Multipurpose Area of Ingenium, 2/F, Main Library
Speaker: Professor Nicole Huang, Department of Comparative Literature, HKU

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: Eileen Chang at the University of Toronto

This lecture paints an intellectual portrait of Eileen Chang (1920-1995), a major twentieth-century writer and one of the most celebrated alumni in the history of the University of Hong Kong.

Chang was educated bilingually from an early age and enrolled in HKU in 1939, majoring in English and History. Her college education abruptly ended two and a half years later by the bloody Hong Kong Battle of December 1941, an experience that would find recurrent expressions in her writings.

In May 1942, she returned to Shanghai and became an overnight literary sensation. Two volumes marked her early literary success: a collection of short stories and novellas entitled Romances and a book of prose entitled Written on Water. Her “tales of two cities”—Shanghai and Hong Kong—were some of the most endearing narratives in her early literary output, contrasting two urban environments as mirrors and shadows of one another. Three long narratives stand out in her later writings, two of which were written in English— The Fall of the Pagoda and The Book of Change—and the third, the most critically acclaimed of all, was written in Chinese, titled Little Reunions. Significant portions of these long narratives were a retelling of her wartime Hong Kong experience.

Her time as a HKU college student consistently found its many manifestations in a literary career deeply haunted by memories of war, migration, and permanent loss. In "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman," Professor Huang seeks to redefine Chang’s solitary experiment as an important chapter in our collective knowledge of global Chinese and global English.

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