Looking, reading, and intertextuality in Ding Ling's “Shafei nüshi de riji” 莎菲女士的日記 (Miss Sophia's Diary)

Keru Cai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines Ding Ling's 丁玲 (1904–86) practice of intertextuality in her famous 1927 story “Shafei nüshi de riji” 莎菲女士的日記 (Miss Sophia's Diary) by means of the Bakhtinian concept of dialogism. Sophia's diary is in dialogue with a plethora of texts she has read or encountered before. Ding Ling uses these intertexts to shed light on Sophia's negotiations with the New Woman's identity, as well as with the medium of the written word. At the same time, Sophia's diary is perennially in dialogue with anticipated readers or interlocutors. The story's thematization of reading is inseparable from the motifs of looking and gazing: just as Sophia is constantly preoccupied with how people look at her, she is anxious about how her diary will be read. Thus, her diary has an inherently dialogical stance as Sophia flirts with different intertextual ways of defining herself, always implicitly in contention with others who might view or read her otherwise. The article ends by reflecting on the resonances between Sophia's textual flirtations and the story's depictions of erotic desire, suggesting that the idea of promiscuity emerges as a figure for the practice of intertextuality during the May Fourth period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-325
Number of pages28
JournalPrism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Ding Ling
  • Intertextuality
  • May Fourth
  • Bakhtin
  • Dostoevsky


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