The Symbols of Mother Goddess Religion in Literature and its Effects in the New Context of Vietnam (Case Study of Nguyen Xuan Khanh’sThe Mother Goddess of Upland Forests)

Authors: Cao Kim – Lan (Institute of Literature, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences)
Speaker: Cao Kim- Lan
Topic: Narrative and Metanarrative
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 Colloquium Session


This paper focuses on two main contents, including an exploration of the symbolic system displayed in <em>The Mother Goddess of Upland Forests </em>– a novel written by a well-known Vietnamese author, Nguyen Xuan Khanh, as a narrative of the Mother Goddess Religion and this indigenous religion’s effects in Vietnamese society today as a metanarrative based on a literary text. In order to clarify these matters, the writing interprets the mechanism of making sense in Nguyen’s symbolic system from the customs (including the funeral rite with the <em>Overture of Tears (Lâm Kh</em><em>ố</em><em>c, L</em><em>ư</em><em>u Th</em><em>ủ</em><em>y) </em>and the ceremony in a wedding) to the beliefs (worshiping sacred trees and sacred animals such as the Banian, Dog, and Snake), and finally, <em>Ke Dinh Festival</em> (with lots of religious practices of the Mother Goddess religion). Interpreting the novel’s deep structure based on semiotics and rhetorical theory, the paper demonstrates not only <em>the persuasion</em> of “artistic techniques” that the writer employs to create an exceptionally vivid work but also explores the implied connection between linguistics and cultural structure that is imbued in each symbol. We cannot completely understand the implied meanings of the symbol if we don’t penetrate deeply into its culture. Finally, the writing also aims to give some assessment of the Mother Goddess religion’s effects based on the interpretation of the literary text as a way of looking for spiritual security in contemporary Vietnamese society.

Keywords: the symbols of the Mother Goddess Religion, Nguyen Xuan Khanh, The Mother Goddess of Upland Forests