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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
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Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Adaptation, Gender and Transnational Identities in the Films of Ang Lee and Neil Jordan

With Professor Gerardine Meaney (Centre for the Study of Gender, Culture and Identities, University College Dublin)

Series:  Regional Comparison: Taiwan and Ireland in Comparative Perspective

Date: Thursday 9 June 2011, 6pm-8pm

Venue:  Seligman Library (Room OLD 6.05), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Dr Fang-Long Shih (Taiwan Research Programme)

Discussants:  Reverend John Scott (LSE and University of Birmingham); Mr Stuart Thompson (LSE Anthropology Department)


The ouevre of both Lee and Jordan is characterised by a diverse output, including small scale domestic dramas, such as The Wedding Banquet and The Miracle and large scale epics such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Michael Collins. In both cases there appears to be an alignment between epic scale and engagement with issues of national identity and with the national narratives of Taiwan and Ireland respectively.

These national epics are characterised by original screenplays which nonetheless engage with complex cultural traditions and these epics can be read as interventions in the respective national imaginaries of Taiwan and Ireland, but also translations of those imaginaries into a transnational medium.

 In contrast, the earlier smaller scale films of both directors appear to be more engaged with social mores and with the disjunctions between the desire of the individual subject and the national project. In Brokeback Mountain, Lee deconstructs the western, effectively the American national epic. If Brokeback Mountain queers America's romance with its own past, The Crying Game employs a similar tactic in relation to the Anglo-Irish romance, prevalent from the early nineteenth century in Irish narratives aimed to engage the sympathies of international readerships and audiences. Both directors use narratives of migration to open up spaces where identities can and must be re-negotiated, for example in The Wedding Banquet and The Crying Game.

In the most recent work of both directors, there is a convergence of these two tendencies, with Lust Caution exploring political history directly, in contrast ot the mythic register deployed in Crouching Tiger, but through a form of romance, exploring the relationship between the desiring subject and the political subject. In Ondine, the very rapid transition of Ireland from emigration to immigration is explored in a story of a woman from the sea which is both at the heart of a rich seam of Irish traditional folk tales and connected to a broader European tradition explicitly through its title. Both director's have a very substantial body of work adapted from literary texts written by women. This paper explores the way in which adaptation functions as a mode of transnational communication in both director's work, examining in both cases what might be called transgender texts.

About the Speaker

Professor Gerardine Meaney  is the author of Gender, Ireland and Cultural Change (Routledge, 2010), a study of Pat Murphy's film, Nora (Cork University Press and the Film Institute of Ireland, 2004), (Un)like Subjects: women, theory, fiction (Routledge, 1993), a co-editor of the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing: women's writing and traditions, Volumes 4 and 5 (Cork University Press, 2002), and of numerous articles on gender and culture. She has worked on the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive, Joyce's Dublin, the AHRC 'Women in Modern Irish Culture' database, with Professor Maria Luddy (University of Warwick); the HEA 'Women in Public and Cultural Life in Twentieth Century Ireland' research collaboration programme and the IRCHSS Inventing and Reinventing the Irish Woman project with Dr Bernadette Whelan (University of Limerick) and Professor Mary O'Dowd (Queen's University Belfast). She is currently Director of the Centre for the Study of Gender, Culture and Identities, UCD Dublin. She has previously served as Vice-Principal for Research and Innovation in the College of Arts and Celtic Studies, Director of Irish Studies and Director of the Centre for Film Studies at UCD.