Wandering Scholars and the Teachings of Ghosts

  • Katrien Jacobs


This second chapter looks at female ghost figures in Ming and Early Qing dynasty (1580–1700) literature and their treatment in modern Hong Kong cinema. The selected movies can be categorized as art-house or soft-core erotic films with narratives of a scholar’s enlightenment through contact with ghosts. While the sexual ghost encounter is presented in these movies as a male fantasy, it is here redefined as a feminist response to this tale. The ghost will be analyzed as an example of “phantom feminism,” not in the negative sense as illusory or nonexisting presence but as a roaming force that triggers emotive responses and a melancholic critical reflection. Phantom feminism builds on Jack Halberstam’s notion of “shadow feminism” as silent and incoherent agency that guides women’s quest for sexual pleasure (Halberstam 2011: 130). The ghost is seen as an unintelligible and shady agent whose fall into destitution and death can be seen as an escape from procreation and servitude to the nuclear family.


Erotic Film Extramarital Affair Male Protagonist Male Hero Ghost Story 
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© Katrien Jacobs 2015

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  • Katrien Jacobs

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