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Abstract

In the early 20th century popular newspapers, a certain kind of stories demonstrating “two sisters and a man” romances had been popular. “two sisters and a man” stories had its late imperial prototypes which demonstrated romances that puts a male in the center and two sisterly girls at two sides. Inheriting and transforming its late imperial prototypes, the early Republican “two sisters and a man” made the roles of secondary sisters paradoxical in two ways: First, the stories emphasize the relationship among the man and two sisters, while the secondary sisters’ participation in the romance were in fact very few. Second, the sisters’ “happiness” appear frequently in the text, while the subjectivities of both sisters are misrepresented and muted in the stories. This kind of paradoxical roles of the sisters serves a reaction to the discussions on concubinage and monogamy that co-exist with the stories on the newspaper that dispute concubinage as harming monogamy and reversing household hierarchies. The de-emphasized roles of Republican “secondary sisters” could be understood as a compromise to the ongoing critiques that pointed out the danger of concubinage. However, the emphasized participation of the secondary sisters in the relationship speaks for a readers’ demand that still expects to preserve concubinage. In this sense, the stories could be understood as a mediation between two sides of the issue of concubinage. These stories on the newspapers created a middle realm between welcoming monogamy as a newly promoted lifestyle in the media discourse, and expecting a preservation of the conventional household hierarchy in marital lives. The readers’ taste in welcoming this kind of stories showed their implicit attempt to preserve concubinage in their everyday household experiences, under the condition of accepting the media-promoted “new” marital life style among the metropolis middle-class readers.

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