Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Victor Mair


The literature of Bing Xin 冰心 (birth name Xie Wanying 谢婉莹) (1900-1999), Su Xuelin 苏雪林 (1897-1999), and Xu Dishan 许地山 (1893-1941) concerning religiosity is dismissed in previous scholarship by C.T. Hsia, Lewis Robinson, Marian Galik, Chen Weihua, and Yang Jianlong as reflecting simply the personal experiences of the authors themselves rather than as political or social commentary. I argue for a reading of these three authors’ literature that acknowledges its efforts to engage with contemporaneous debates on the relationship of religion and modernization. Using close-reading and intertextual analysis, I argue that within the narratives of these three authors’ literature, identifying as religious or participating in religious cultural phenomena is for protagonists linked to cultivating the skill of focusing on the well-being of others. This practice in turn leads to greater happiness and contentment on an individual level for the protagonists, who form deeper connections with others and overcome their sense of social alienation. I conclude that the category “religion” is used in the narratives of Bing Xin’s, Su Xuelin’s, and Xu Dishan’s literature to frame certain skills important to forming connections with other people as “other” than social, in other words as ostensibly existing outside of the social realm that is causing protagonists to feel alienated in the first place. This then allows protagonists to turn to these skills as a set of allegedly objective guidelines for overcoming their social alienation and becoming happier and more contented on an individual level.