Journal Articles

December 2015 - Vol.46/No.1
Narrative, Orality, and Native-American Historical Consciousness: The Critique of Logocentrism in Louise Erdrich’s Tracks
Author : Jonathan Butler
Keywords : narrative, orality, Native-American historical consciousness, logocentrism, Tracks, Erdrich
In view of the rising interest in resurrecting forgotten or invalidated modalities of aboriginal discourse, it seems timely to return to a pivotal text in the debate between traditional Western historical narrative and NativeAmerican historical consciousness. Nancy J. Peterson, in a 1994 PMLA article titled “History, Narrative, and Louise Erdrich’s Tracks,” champions Erdrich’s novel as a praiseworthy compromise between two extremes: the representational claims of conventional documentary history on the one hand, and the linguistic abyss proffered by poststructuralist anti-representationalism on the other. Such an assessment is both meticulous and apt. My contention, however, is that Peterson underestimates the strength Erdrich gives one of the novel’s narrators, Nanapush, who refuses to capitulate to the Western paradigm of written discourse and instead celebrates the oral tradition of the Anishinabe Native Americans, giving it a place both outside and impervious to the hegemony of colonial written discourse. Peterson also seems to miss the extent to which Erdrich undercuts the validity of the narrative voice of Pauline (the novel’s second narrator). Peterson’s claim that “Erdrich’s novel holds Nanapush’s and Pauline’s antithetical views in tension,” while certainly true on a formal level, is questionable in light of two key issues: first, the deceitful and alienating nature of her narratival recordings; second, the strength with which Nanapush’s narrative flourishes within an intersubjective matrix fostered by those within his community as well as the natural world itself. Consequently, Tracks may not be as bipartisan in its compromise as Peterson claims it to be. A richer reading of the text, proffered here, proposes exploring the embeddedness of Nanapush’s sense of identity and narrative voice within a sustaining and ever-nourishing multiplicity of human and animal life forms, a kind of democracy of animate life, to borrow and modify a phrase from contemporary material ecocriticism.
Relational Interracialism and the American Dream of Race in Ha Jin’s A Free Life
Author : Sarah Yihsuan Tso
Keywords : Ha Jin, A Free Life, interracial harmony, transracial adoption, relational interracialism
Critical discussions in the new millennium have augured an interracial turn in both theories and literary scholarship. This paper argues that interracial harmony is the American dream of racial relationships that American writers, including Ha Jin, explore in literary narratives and poetry, and I will illustrate this American dream of interracial harmony with his novel A Free Life and examples from other novels and poems. Through four of John E. Farley’s models of racial theories this paper analyzes collaborative interracial relationships in the division of labor, adoption, romance, and friendship in Ha Jin’s novel A Free Life, while advancing a relational interracialism, a term I coined as a viable theoretical grappling with the subject of race between races. Relational interracialism studies the relationality between races and suggests that multiculturalism in practice can be revised so that interraciality is premised on interracial cooperation and cultural infiltration with conflicts constrained within a resolvable range. A Free Life starts constructing an American dream of modern human relations and emotions less in their contradictions than in their relationality in which cooperation and mutual infiltration supersede conflicts to define interraciality. Ha Jin in A Free Life, Nanjing Requiem, A Map of Betrayal, and poems and John Okada in No-No Boy paint a vision for the time to follow.
Mythicizations of the Nationless: Hong Kong Spectral Temporality
Author : Danny Weng-kit Chan
Keywords : Hong Kong, spectrality, mythicization, originality, temporality
Focusing on Hong Kong’s unique postcoloniality oscillating in between nationalization and nationlessness, this paper conceptualizes this particular tension as the perfect medium for materializing and valorizing specters to redeem temporality and to invent originality for a community. Delineating the temporalizations orchestrated via exorcism and clairvoyance, this exploration scrutinizes the correlations between communal imagination, spectrality and time to achieve a historical conglomeration mixed by facts and imagination of the city’s colonial past and the ongoing nationalization. Hong Kong spectrality, as temporalized by the clairvoyant, serves as a critique against the universality of nationalism with its unique temporal configuration and interrogates the legitimacy of colonial and postcolonial histories. To scrutinize Hong Kong mythicizations is also to trace the paths where ghosts are summoned and materialized in order to reclaim a sense of originality and to redeem a temporal experience peculiarly Hong Kong, which also foregrounds the city’s cultural alterity in the processes of decolonization and nationalization among its Asian neighbors.
A Study of the Prose of Choong Yee Voon (Zhong Yiwen): A Case of a Malaysian Chinese Writer in Taiwan
Author : Lai-Sze Ng, Chee-Lay Tan
Keywords : Choong Yee Voon, Zhong Yiwen, Malaysia Chinese literature, prose, Taiwanese literature, Malaysian writers in Taiwan
Described as an “all-conquering” contestant in major Taiwanese literary award competitions for Taiwanese writers, Choong Yee Voon (1969-) presents an interesting case of a Malaysian Chinese immigrant writer in Taiwan, as she finds her foothold in a foreign land and wins the hearts of Taiwanese readers and the literary scene alike. While good looks and immense literary talents certainly contribute to her popularity, this paper investigates why is it that many other Malaysian Chinese writers see themselves as being discriminated against as facing discrimination in the Taiwanese literary scene due to their foreign nationality, while Choong, on the contrary, is embraced by readers and indigenous writers alike. This paper will show that Choong’s urge to utilize her multi-layered individual identity to transcend nationality shows her desire to not only blend into the Taiwanese literary scene, but also to maintain her roots in Malaysia, and to become part of the international writing scene.
Illusion and the Self: Honglou Meng, Wilhelm Meister, and Bildungsroman
Author : Ning Ma
Keywords : Honglou Meng, Wilhelm Meister, Bildungsroman, the modern self, East-West comparison
This essay offers a reading of the famous eighteenth-century Chinese novel Honglou Meng 紅樓夢 in light of theories about the European Bildungsroman and in comparison to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister’s Years of Apprenticeship (Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre), which was first published in 1795 and is widely regarded as the seminal example of the Bildungsroman narrative form. The purpose of this comparative exercise is not about imposing Western theories upon Chinese texts, but about discerning an intellectually obscured form of “modernity” from Honglou Meng and the social and cultural contexts around it. In general, my argument is that Honglou Meng is aesthetically analogous to the European Bildungsroman in that it likewise dramatizes a problematic incommutability between the self and society, and in this manner crystallizes a larger process of cultural displacement. Between Honglou Meng and Wilhelm Meister one can indeed observe a set of striking parallels that all serve to manifest this inner-outer divide, such as the protagonist’s naïve idealism and artistic temperament, a social-lyrical binary that characterizes his romantic interests, and his mystified “enlightenment” process that combines a sense of irony and a sense of fatalism. Considering that the two books are closely coeval, these similarities are especially remarkable. Given the emergent thesis of a re-Oriented “early modernity” and concurrent scholarly movements toward “horizontal integrative macrohistories,” attention to these structural resemblances between Honglou Meng and Wilhelm Meister—two literary landmarks in Chinese and Western narrative histories—can help pluralize theories of the Bildungsroman and the related question of the modern self beyond the European trajectory, while reconfiguring the implications of these regionally canonized works in transcultural terms.
The Virtual We: The Survivors, the Cities, and the Cosmos in Doris Lessing’s Shikasta
Author : Catherine Ju-yu Cheng
Keywords : Lessing, Deleuze, Guattari, percept, affect, cities, Survivors
In juxtaposing the ancient geometric cities, of old, static, colonial design, and the future post-catastrophic utopian cities, of new, intuitive, evolutionary design, Lessing highlights the transition from one to the other. The post-catastrophic cities and the Survivors form an indiscernible relationship and connect with the cosmic force, SOWF. The transition vividly maps the divergences and mutations of the Survivors and their becoming-city, envisioning the cross-fertilization between the two parties. The dissolving of boundaries between the cities and the Survivors facilitates the formation of a new virtual “we” that encompasses different beings such as stones, plants, apes, Giants, Shikastans, and even Canopeans and triggers the emergence of a virtual cosmos of multiplicity. Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of percept and affect promote understanding of how the Survivors, in the “virtual” act of rebuilding, evolve and “become the city” instead of monitoring the rebuilding via conscious implementation of an “actual” rigid cosmic Master Plan, highlight the divergences of the evolving cities, and reveal the formation of a new virtual “we,” a key element of the virtual cosmos of symbiotic evolution.