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Lê Vân and Notions of Vietnamese Womanhood

In this article I investigate notions of womanhood in Vietnam by examining an autobiography by Lê Vân, a well-known actress. My approach, taken from literary studies, is intertextual: It assumes that in telling their life stories authors will inevitably evoke “texts,” or cultural codes, relating to manhood and womanhood. I identify, categorize, and discuss some texts related to womanhood that Lê Vân evokes in her autobiography. I conclude that these texts favor men, making gender equality difficult to achieve. Because, however, culture influences but does not determine behavior, agency—acting creatively—is possible and I find evidence of it in Lê Vân’s Loving and Living.

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