Journal Articles

December 2017 - Vol.48/No.1
“An Accidental Porn Star”: David Mas Masumoto, Food Pornography, and the Politics of the Food Movement
Author : Shiuhhuah Serena Chou
Keywords : food pornography, David Mas Masumoto, food movement, organic farming, food justice
In this essay, I examine how Masumoto’s distress over his possible food-porn writing sheds light on a food movement that, while entertaining a sensuous approach to food and eating through visual and verbal exploitation of images of food, intricately blends gustatory pleasure with ethical and political eating and defines the flavors of food through white, elitist conceptions of health and sustainability. His attempt to claim authority over the (organic) food infrastructure through first-person, nonfictional narratives, or documentary film of “real lives and real stories,” unravels a cultural milieu in which the appeals of the cultures and ecologies of farming have lost ground to that of food in the U.S. because of the unprecedented growth of the urban population in the second half of the twentieth century. In this so-called “food” movement, the geographical and ethical-political distances between urban consumers and the sources of their food, established by the capitalist food industry, conspire with both the desire for, and the fear of, the cultivation of intimate personal or bodily relations with the immanence of food and agricultural production. And, for Masumoto, this estrangement and disconnection from the “real” and the immanent has propelled the reading of his intimate and visceral approach to food and farming as pornographic—that is, as sexually seductive and culturally expensive and extravagant.
From Death to Cosmic Life: On Lessing’s The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
Author : Catherine Ju-yu Cheng
Keywords : Lessing, Deleuze, impersonal death, duration, difference
Doris Lessing’s The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, published in 1982, is the fourth work of science fiction in her series Canopus in Argos: Archives. This novel depicts vividly how the residents of Planet 8 face death collectively. Reading death in the light of Lessing’s oeuvre, we are led to one important question: if, in Lessing’s early novels, she places emphasis on personal fate and death, one is left questioning why she depicts not only personal but also collective death in her later novels, such as The Making, even associating them with colonizing policy. This article investigates Lessing’s purpose in portraying death in The Making. I first explore how the Representatives encounter personal death and transform it into impersonal death, which crystallizes them into a new life-form, a cosmic life-form that connects them with other beings. Deleuze’s extension of Blanchot’s concept of impersonal death into that of “a life” as impersonal can help us understand how death serves as the conduit to impersonal life, forcing the Representatives to think anew and making possible a mystic vision of in- terconnected life. Next, I explore why Lessing envisions a cosmic life after death. What can this cosmic afterlife teach us? If impersonal death implies the erasure of all the residents’ individualities while making them into one collective life-form, will it become another dystopian unity, where differences are eliminated for the benefit of the whole? How can all the dying beings retain their differences while converging into one unity? Deleuze’s concept of “duration” helps us understand the paradoxical relationship between a collective life-form (one) and individualities (differences) as well as how different beings are interconnected in the virtual one and how, in this virtual field, differences are maximized rather than minimized or erased.
The Uncanny, Open Secrets, and Katherine Mansfield’s Modernist Legacy in Alice Munro’s Everyday Gothic
Author : Wen-Shan Shieh
Keywords : the everyday, the uncanny, modernist, Gothic, secrets, Katherine Mansfield, Alice Munro
Alice Munro has sometimes been labeled as a realist, but her contribution to what I call the “everyday Gothic” and her acknowledged debt to the modernist narrative strategies have been largely overlooked. Drawing on John Paul Riquelme’s insights into the link between the Gothic and modernism and Ben Highmore’s reflection on the everyday, this essay argues that Munro is a Gothic modernist who deploys such narrative strategies as open-endedness of the plot, the splitting of the self, and temporal prolepsis to defy normative expectations about the linearity of the plot, the coherence and intelligibility of the self, and progressive temporality to produce the uncanny reading effects of her everyday Gothic. This argument is made through analysis of Munro’s short stories and her comments on writing in relation to those of Katherine Mansfield. Munro and Mansfield are linked together because of their readiness to use innovative narrative strategies to expose the everyday life as possibly traumatic, thereby giving their stories a distinctive gothic undertone. Thus, the first part of this essay investigates how Munro was influenced by Mansfield in her use of modernist strategies of defamiliarization and divided self to expose the terrifying motifs hidden beneath the banality of everyday life. Those motifs fascinated Mansfield and include the uncanniness of social snobbery and self-estrangement. In the second part, the author examines how Munro deploys the concept of “open secrets” to disclose the closed mindset of the townspeople and subverts Mansfield’s modernist emphasis on “the present moment” by installing instances of prolepsis in her later stories such as “Open Secrets” (1994) and “Jakarta” (1998). The conclusion of this essay claims that what is Gothic about Munro’s stories is not so much the risk hidden in the unknown future and places as the sense of horror evoked by the mimetic uncanny in the hollowness of everyday lives.
Are Stories of Trash Merely Didactic Proselytizing? Challenging Representations of Garbage in Children’s Books
Author : Lichung Yang
Keywords : waste in children’s literature, picture book, graphic novel, Rachel Hope Allison, Jonah Winter, environmental literature
Garbage may be often envisioned as part of some greater ecological or environmental concern, but how children’s books deal with our garbage is a representational question. How can the children’s books turn issues of trash and waste into stories dramatic enough to engage young readers, stories powerful enough to establish cognitive distance from everyday experience so that the readers may adopt a critical view of them? The essay premises that the children’s books on garbage mobilize a host of values in both children’s literature and environmentalism, and that these books are also symptomatic examples that affect the way garbage is represented and understood for children. It first explores the common ways in which garbage is presented in children’s books, and then discusses two recent examples—Here Comes the Garbage Barge (2010), written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Chris Sickels, and I’m Not a Plastic Bag (2012) by Rachel Hope Allison—that examine garbage problems while minimizing didactic proselytizing that a conventional approach might foster. While the two books are a combination of fiction and non-fiction, similar in the depiction of human waste, they are very different in terms of content and style. The essay will read the two books along with Mary Douglas’s theory of dirt as “matter out of place,” and Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject, exploring the extent to which the garbage problems are imaginatively and strategically addressed in Winter’s and Allison’s books. It argues that the two children’s books demonstrate an ecological approach which not merely uses humor or hyperbole to get their message across, but also encourages alternative ways of seeing the waste we have made. The essay suggests that it is pedagogically significant to offer different eco-critical perspectives or be more socially conscious about garbage as part of environmental concern in children’s books.
A Critique of Sources for the Notion of Sex and Gender in Judith Butler’s Early Work
Author : May Hsueh
Keywords : Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, Monique Wittig, Foucault, sex, gender
This paper focuses on Judith Butler’s critical relationships with three French thinkers before and during the time of writing Gender Trouble: Simone de Beauvoir, Monique Wittig, and Michael Foucault. I propose that Butler has thoughtfully built the foundation for her own theory of sex and gender by appropriating, assimilating, and challenging Beauvoir, Wittig, and Foucault. In addition to scrutinizing how Butler incorporates and disputes with each of these three thinkers, I will also point out what I believe to be her critical contradictions or oversights. Interestingly, even while Butler openly acknowledges that Gender Trouble is rooted in French theory, a large portion of French society who opposed gay marriage during unprecedented demonstrations in 2012 and 2013, have targeted Butler as an “invader” and “terrorist,” armed with gender conspiracies and a “gender ideology.” Even though concepts of sex and gender are viewed differently today from how they were understood in the past, I believe Butler’s ideas and her theory of sex and gender are still relevant in this age of the Internet, when one’s sexual and gender identities can be a matter of choice and where a diverse spectrum of gender identities have increasingly emerged in real life.