Journal Articles

June 2011 - Vol.41 / No.2
Critical Dystopia Reconsidered: Octavia Butler’s Parable Series and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake as Post-Apocalyptic Dystopias
Author : Hui-chuan Chang
Keywords : dystopia, critical dystopia, post-apocalyptic dystopia, Octavia E. Butler, Margaret Atwood, Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, Oryx and Crake
This paper calls for a more nuanced assessment of current dystopian literature and questions the feasibility of lumping together all dystopian works after the 1980s under the umbrella term “critical dystopia.” According to current definition, critical dystopia is open-ended, harbors an eutopian enclave, and entertains some kind of hope. However, this definition fails to identify crucial aspects of dystopias around the millennium. Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series (Parable of the Sower, 1993; Parable of the Talents, 1998) and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003) are investigated to pinpoint the limitation of the term “critical dystopia.” Both the diminished utopianism of Butler’s Parable series and the apocalypse and despair in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake testify that dystopias around the millennium have undergone some significant transformation. They should more properly be labeled “postapocalyptic dystopias.”
The Fisherman of Halicarnassus’s Narratives of the White Sea (the Mediterranean): Translocal Subjects, Nonlocal Connections
Author : Serpil Oppermann
Keywords : The Fisherman of Halicarnassus, Bodrum, Anatolia, Blue Voyage, ecology of culture, biodiversity, nonlocality, translocality
This ecocritical essay discusses the Mediterranean narratives of The Fisherman of Halicarnassus, the pen name of Cevat ¸Sakir Kabaa˘ga¸clı (1886- 1972), Turkey’s most environmentally oriented Modernist writer. His poetics of marine life, and flora and fauna specific to Bodrum peninsula qualify The Fisherman as an important bioregional writer. His narratives of the White Sea, the Turkish name for the Mediterrenean, constitute exemplary literary reflections of quantum nonlocality which is the principle of inseparability of all material processes. The permeable boundaries in his fictions between life in the sea and human agencies create such intimate connectedness that inevitably recall this quantum principle of nonlocality. He also launches the sea fauna as translocal entities without any sense of demarcations. The Fisherman’s uniqueness lies in bringing these cultural (translocal) and the quantum (nonlocal) notions into dialogue. By focusing on The Fisherman’s special sea-discourse that has brought Bodrum its present fame, this essay contends that the writer’s continual emphasis on the ethical partnership between human and non-human life has immensely contributed to bringing the biological diversity and cultural richness of the region to public attention and in raising ecological awareness about the endemic species of the Bodrum peninsula.
Poetry of the Planet, by the Planet, and for the Planet: A Global Manifesto for Being Here
Author : Jonathan Butler
Keywords : ecology, poetry, contemplation, epistemology, ontology
This essay takes as its launching point the current dilemma faced by the ecological movement: its fragmentary and thus ineffective challenge to the behavioral patterns behind the continued destruction of the planet. Journalism, fiction, non-fiction narrative, and film have all raised awareness of ecological imperatives, but failed to effect the total change required to redirect the current course of humanity from its path towards ecological oblivion. What more is required? This essay posits poetry as a strategic means to heighten global awareness to the ways in which language itself masks the real violence at work on the planet. Using the work of Slovenian critic Slavoj Zˇizˇek as a springboard, the claim is made that we must be suspicious of language itself, especially the discourse of “liberal communism” which takes away with one hand what it gives with the other. My argument is that for real change to occur we must look to the language of the poets who understand that human thought, human embodiment, and the natural world are not separate from each other but intertwined and interconnected in ways that, once acknowledged, will make it necessarily impossible to continue unleashing violence against the planet, since such violence would essentially amount to violence against oneself. The poetry of John Burnside, David Gravender and Boyd Chubbs is analyzed in this light and the commensurate philosophy of such an interconnected world is tentatively explored. The philosophy of poet/critic Tim Lilburn is used as a backdrop to appreciating the ways in which the aforementioned poets question and challenge traditional metaphysical dualism—the separation of self from world which makes possible and empowers violence against nature in the first place.
The Future of Ecocriticism: Strategic Openness and Sustainability—An Interview with Scott Slovic
Author : Ying-yu Yang
Keywords : Scott Slovic, ecocriticism, interdisciplinary, strategic openness, sustainability
This interview was conducted in May, 2010, when Professor Slovic, one of the most distinguished promoters of American eco-criticism, was teaching an intensive course on ecocriticism and theory at Shandong University. During his stay in China he visited several universities in Sichuan and delivered a series of lectures on ecocriticism, specifically concerning the strategic openness and future sustainability of ecological literary criticism. The interview begins by defining ecocriticism in a broader sense, which characterizes Slovic’s definition of strategic openness, exploring a variety of aspects of ecocriticism and its future development. Other issues covered include an overview of scholars’ efforts to localize ecocriticism in specific cultural discourses by transferring various ecological paradigms. Slovic comments on ecological aesthetics and ecological ethics and makes comparisons between early literary works and what is happening today so as to situate proto-ecocritical approaches outside of ecocriticism in the contemporary sense. In addition, Slovic thinks that the future of ecocriticism will be more practical as people make green appeals to more environment-friendly lifestyles, which have been increasingly reflected in literary works on animal liberation, food literature, and so on. He argues that strategic openness and future sustainability of ecological literary criticism will characterize this discipline in the future.
The Global Registers of Brokeback Mountain as a Place-Bound Story
Author : Yu-tien Ho
Keywords : Brokeback Mountain, cultural globalization, global popular, local, global, homosexuality, cowboy, the West
This paper addresses how place consciousness has been mediated in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005) so as to tell a story with global significance. The cowboy as a cultural icon in the American West is central to the film. I propose that there are two visions of the American West, the agricultural West and the Wild West, whose dialectical relationship works with the cowboy iconology in the film. The geographical and cultural specificities of the story might be spatially bound, but its political message of homophobia is globally relevant. One significant aspect of this phenomenon is the filmic representations challenging some preconceived notions regarding a classic archetype of the American West—the cowboy. Here, the classic embodiment of American masculinity and heterosexual virility is turned on its head by the depiction of a homosexual love affair between two seemingly straight cowboys. If the cowboy image and the American West conspicuously reflect the national dimension, the deliberate invocations of some core narratives of the romance in the filmic representations of Brokeback are what links the local and the global, making the localized representations of the film globally appealing. The cinematic voice of Brokeback successfully toes the line between liberal and conservative ideologies to the extent that the film is able to elicit global appeal while keeping homophobia in check in the mainstream heterosexual ideology.
Illness as Thinking in Virginia Woolf ’s Orlando
Author : Chia-chen Kuo
Keywords : illness, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Virginia Woolf, Orlando, machines, desire
This paper has two parts. The first part discusses how Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari renew the concept of illness by overthrowing the psychoanalytic theory of subject and desire. Psychoanalysis misunderstands illness to the extent that it reads illness in a negative way. Nevertheless, Deleuze and Guattari develop their “illness as thinking” or schizoanalysis which sets desire free from the imprisonment of psychoanalysis and presents it as a force to assemble/dissemble machines. According to Deleuze and Guattari, whether as small as organs or as big as human beings, everything in the world is and should be regarded as a machine. They are connected and disconnected by virtue of desire. In this light, illness manifests the nature of life as a zone of indiscernibility by disclosing the significance of desire. On the surface, Deleuze and Guattari relentlessly criticize psychoanalysis, but their ultimate target is the commonsensical world of differentiation. What is important is not the subjectivity established by the lack caused by castration and the Oedipus complex but the forever-floating desire as the force of life which oscillates among organs, humans and machines. Bearing this in mind, the second part exemplifies Virginia Woolf ’s Orlando in which Orlando’s second oversleep diagnosed as illness demonstrates that Orlando embodies life as a zone of indiscernibility and sex as merely one attribute of this greatest machinic assemblage or one facet of this indiscernible zone. We should not put emphasis on the result of Orlando’s sexual transformation (either a man or a woman) but on the possibility which life force/desire oscillates between them (both a man and a woman). With the evacuation of three goddesses, Woolf points out life as a zone of indiscernibility can never be stabilized by any virtue. Its nature is forever floating and it is indiscernible from other objects.
Resisting Sympathy, Reclaiming Authority: The Politics of Representation in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Author : Chiou-rung Deng
Keywords : sympathy, authority, the politics of representation, slave narratives, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
This paper aims to analyze the politics of Harriet Jacobs’s representation in her slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. While Jacobs adopts the rhetoric of sympathy, popular in early nineteenth-century American sentimental and domestic novels, it is important to note that there is a tendency in Jacobs’s narrative to resist sympathy, which tends to obliterate the difference of the suffering other, to expose the suffering other under the public gaze, and to deprive the other of privacy and agency. In a word, in the operation of sympathy, the suffering other has neither authority nor subjectivity to determine his/her life. My analysis of Jacobs’s representation of her experience of being abused under slavery seeks to demonstrate how Jacobs reclaims her difference, puts emphasis on the authority of her experience, and proposes a different view on sympathy that would allow the suffering other a certain degree of privacy and agency. More specifically, rather than constructing imaginary identification between the sympathizer and the suffering other, Jacobs highlights the difference of her experience, so as to claim her authority; also, by delineating the moments of silence, adopting the language of motherhood, and deploying the trope of veiling, Jacobs shows a strong desire not to be present, heard, and seen, which revolts against the logic of sympathy, that is, to have the suffering other displayed in the scene of sufferings.
Shifting Alliances in Late Colonial Indonesia: Tionghoa Peranakan Pre-war Novels
Author : Sim Chee Cheang
Keywords : Tionghoa peranakan, novels, Dutch colonial, East Indies
The loyalties of the Tionghoa peranakan (local-born Chinese) in Indonesia has often been considered circumspect. It has been the hypothesis of much research on the reasons for the racial riots that often resulted in the victimisation of the Tionghoa peranakan. This article offers a glimpse of their various loyalties through an analysis of novels that are still available and were written by the Tionghoa peranakan between 1903 and 1910, the pre-war period of the Dutch East Indies. These novels reveal some of the reasons for the Tionghoa peranakan’s decisions on their future and Indonesian identity. Factors both historical and pertaining to a migrant milieu played a part in changing their point of reference from China and the Netherlands, to Indonesia. Clinging onto a past that was unreliable and cruel was not a choice just as gravitating towards a retreating Dutch was not feasible. While it appears that the Tionghoa peranakan eventually cast their loyalty with Indonesia for economic reasons, the novels show that their migrant background had resulted in disillusionment with both China and the Dutch imperialists.