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Interconnectivities and material agencies : consumption, fashion, and intimacy in Zhu Tianwen's 'Fin-de-Siècle Splendor'

Lovin, C. Laura (2015) Interconnectivities and material agencies : consumption, fashion, and intimacy in Zhu Tianwen's 'Fin-de-Siècle Splendor'. In: Intimacies, Critical Consumption and Diverse Economies. Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life . Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 60-86. ISBN 9781349563968

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The material girl who craves for world’s splendour is Mia, the main character of ‘Fin-de-Siècle Splendor,’ one of the seven stories published by Zhu Tianwen in her 1990 collection Fin-de-Siècle Splendour. A volume of exquisite lyrical power, Fin-de-Siècle Splendour marked Zhu’s break into mass popularity, particularly among urban readers of the Greater China region. Literary critics praised the volume for its modernist and postmodernist valences, more specifically for its capacity to present ‘the unpresentable’ and to enable its readership ‘to see only by making it impossible to see’ (Lyotard qtd. in Chiang, 2002, p. 53). At the core of Fin-de-siecle Splendor are the residents of 1992’s Taipei — ‘“the new species” (xin renlei) of young men and women zipping about on their red Fiat scooters; the McDonald’s waitresses, homosexual artists, fashion models and soap opera directors’ (Chiang, 2002, p. 50). Among them is Mia, a fashion model and the main character of the title short story. ‘Fin-de-Siècle Splendor’ takes place in the future, two years after its publication, close to the turn of the century, in 1992 Taipei. The title of the story contains the French for ‘end of century,’ a phrase that references a generation of artists and thinkers who decried the cultural and social effects of modernisation as it unfolded across many European countries at the end of the nineteenth century.