Crossing Boundaries

The Fox-Woman in Twenty- First-Century Novels

  • Jiachuan Li (Autor/in)


The fox-woman, a literary figure able to shape-shift from fox to woman and vice
versa, originated in Chinese mythology, thereafter appearing often in Chinese,
Japanese, and Korean folklore. The figure was first introduced to Europe in the
nineteenth century, at a time when fascination with Asian literature and art was
blooming. The character and the narrative structure of the East Asian fox-woman
stories have been adapted and interpreted in various cultural contexts, establishing
connections between Eastern and Western traditions, and between tradition and
modernity. In the last 20 years, more novelists from other cultures have adapted the
fox-woman story into their own writing than ever before. This paper argues that the
fox-woman in twenty-first-century novels is used to portray the ambiguous
boundaries between cultures, genders, and human-animal spheres against a
background of globalization and technological development. The fox-woman is
therefore becoming a cultural symbol of those who cross boundaries in postmodern
society, individuals with heterogeneous identities who transform themselves in
order to live in different environments. Until now, studies on the fox-woman have
remained mainly within the limits of national literature. This paper adds new
perspectives to these readings by exploring the fox-woman story within a broader
context that goes beyond that typical national framework. Several examples from
twenty-first-century novels featuring the fox-woman are taken up and explored
using different methodological approaches, such as critical feminist, postcolonial,
new materialist, ecocritical, and animal studies.


literary animal studies, literary transformation, fox-woman, twenty-first-century novel