Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Francesca Canadé Sautman

Committee Members

Yunzhong Shu

Maxime Blanchard

Ali Nematollahy

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | East Asian Languages and Societies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | French and Francophone Language and Literature


Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square, Tian'anmen, Avant-Garde Theater, Exile, Diaspora


Over the past two decades, a group of Chinese writers who pen their works in French, their adopted language, have garnered prizes in France and received international acclaim. The transnational voices of these writers have drawn attention to Chinese history, literature, and human-rights issues, as well as to their own diverse intersections with French culture. The four Francophone-Chinese writers studied—François Cheng (b. 1929), Gao Xingjian (b. 1940), Dai Sijie (b. 1954), and Shan Sa (b. 1972)—constitute themselves as subjects at least partially through their Chinese birth and French citizenship or residency and through the production of literary works that range from realist and historiographic to experimental novels and avant-garde theater productions. This study examines the ways they inhabit a world that is “between,” a space resonating with Eastern and Western literary, historical, cultural, and political references, arriving at what Cheng calls a “third way,” or in Homi Bhabha’s words, a liminal “Third Space,” integral to transnational literatures, but especially to those by Francophone writers who are part of the Sinophone diaspora. This study examines the narratives that unfold and subjectivities that are constructed in this enunciative Third Space. It considers the transcultural nature of the literary border crossings of these four writers in their works and their lives, the ways in which these writers and their texts exist in a Third Space, a notion that is sometimes problematic as conceived by Bhabha but which has been productively expanded upon by others, including Benita Parry, Edward W. Soja, Julia Lossau, Karin Ikas, and Gerhard Wagner. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s ideas on the tension between borders and borderlessness, viewed through the study of border poetics, encompass the boundary-crossing narratives of writers such as Cheng, Gao, Dai, and Sa. This study focuses on the counternarratives that are created through the intertextual use of Western literary works, ranging from Balzac and Romain Rolland to Freud and Lacan, in Dai Sijie’s Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise (2000) and Le Complexe de Di (2003); the avant-garde experimentation of Gao in his plays and novels; and the ex-centric subjectivities constructed in two works concerning the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, Gao’s La Fuite (1992) and Sa’s Porte de la Paix céleste (1997).



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