Journal Articles

June 2010 - Vol.40 / No.2
Representing Indigenous Bodies in Epeli Hau'ofa and Syaman Rapongan
Author : Hsinya Huang
Keywords : Indigenous body politics, Epeli Hau’ofa, Syaman Rapongan, transindigenous Pacific, “Our Sea of Islands”
This paper explores the representation of indigenous bodies within the context of the trans-indigenous Pacific. Drawing on the life narratives of Epeli Hau’ofa and Syaman Rapongan, two authors native to the Pacific region, I argue that Pacific indigenous body politics are connected to an “oceanic” body and constitute a counter-conversion from land to sea. In We Are the Ocean (Hau’ofa, 2008) as well as Cold Sea, Deep Passion (Rapongan, 1997) and Black Wings (Rapongan, 1999), the two authors set out to liberate the indigenous body from the limitations of nationalistic discourse and social constraint; the respective resolutions of their life stories point us toward solutions to global problems of discrimination and ethnic or racial exclusion. In these works, the indigenous body is a cultural cipher, an index of (post)colonial history, as well as a figure upon which the cultural identities and life paths of Pacific indigenous peoples are inscribed.
"At Home in the World": Transnationalism and the Question of Belonging in Jessica Hagedorn's Dream Jungle
Author : Shyh-Jen Fuh
Keywords : Jessica Hagedorn, Dream Jungle, Filipino American Literature, American imperialism, cultural cosmopolitanism
Like those who form the literary tradition of Filipino American literature— from the pioneering generation including Carlos Bulosan, Bienvenido Santos, N.V.M. Gonzalez and José Garcia Villa to the writers emerging since the 70’s such as Epifanio San Juan, Linda Ty-Casper, Ninotchka Rosca, and Michelle Skinner, Hagedorn directs her concerns towards the history, memories, people, and society of the Philippines in her third novel Dream Jungle. What’s of particular interest in Dream Jungle’s exploration of the national mythos is the gesture of cultural cosmopolitanism that poses the question of belonging in the context of global connection. And the major concern of its narrative tracing of the historical sedimentation is hinged on the pressing issue of negotiation with American hegemony in the increasingly globalized/ globalizing world with all its uneven and disparate developments. Here, Hagedorn’s retrospection on the national path of the Philippines accentuates the irreversible process of formation and transformation of the Filipino community throughout the long history of Spanish colonization and American imperialism. This recognition of what Seyla Benhabib describes as constant contestation among claims of culture informs a cultural politics unbounded by nationalistic claims. This paper traces the problems of colonial memories, cultural identity, and American hegemony as evinced in Hagedorn’s treatment of the Marcos Era-Philippines in order to examine the cultural politics Hagedorn puts forwards here. We will ask what path of struggle against the uneven development of globalization/American hegemony is opened up in this literary act of “resistance and rebellion” and consider the political efficacy and/or the risk of her politics of culture.
The Poetics of Diasporas: Reconceptualizing Home and Identity in Two Hong Kong Poets
Author : Winnie L. M. Yee
Keywords : Hong Kong literature, poetry, Chinese diasporas, dialogue, social imaginary
This article examines some shared poetic texts that speak figuratively of the way the people of Hong Kong have managed to perceive and experience their lives. My analysis articulates the symbolic dimension of our sociocultural world through a process of rewriting and reconstruction. It traces the identifying characteristics of the Hong Kong imaginary arising from the cultural experiences and socio-historical conditions of specific periods of Hong Kong history and focuses on one of the meaning-producing forms of cultural significations—poetry—as a means of discovering the shared world of the cultural imaginary in the literary sphere. This article explores the notions of home and diaspora, which inform the construction of place and locality and exemplifies the crucial role Hong Kong plays in the Chinese diasporic experience, and poetry’s capacity to translate the diasporic experience into social and cultural critique. It focuses on the work of Ou Waiou (1911-1995) and You Jing (b. 1966) because both poets responded personally and politically to the conditions leading to the Chinese diasporas and their poetry sheds light on the ways in which both geographical and intellectual displacement served as a critical device to reflect on the notions of identity and home, colonization and globalization.
Paradise Lost: Narratives of Violence and Terror(ism) in Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown
Author : Shao-ming Kung
Keywords : violence; terror(ism), Salman Rushdie, Kashmir and “Kashmiriyat,” Monica Duffy Toft, Slavoj Zˇizˇek, Judith Butler, self and other
This paper attempts to investigate the issue of violence and terrorism by means of a critical reading of Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown (2005) in the contexts of post-partition violence, South Asian diasporas and global terrorism. Through exploring the historical, geopolitical backdrop of Kashmir, my paper first reveals how British colonialism, postcolonial conflicts, and American neo-imperialism have vehemently transformed the once paradisal state into a territorial dispute. Drawing upon Monica Duffy Toft’s critique of “ethnic violence” over territory, Slavoj Zˇizˇek’s thick descriptions of “subjective and objective violence” as well as Judith Butler’s ethical concern of non-violence toward the Other, I argue that Rushdie’s novel delves deep into the roots of violence, terrorism, and the effects on the individual. In dramatizing the transformation of an innocent and demure tightrope-walking clown into an international terrorist, Rushdie inscribes the manifold conflicts between global self-position and local up-rootedness. While some critics claim that Rushdie celebrates an elitist vision of cosmopolitanism via his ideal syncretistic “Kashmiriyat” to counter the cycles of violence, my study contends that “Kashmiriyat” reveals Rushdie’s postcolonial attempt not only to transgress ethno-religious differences but also to re-imagine spatial possibilities of conviviality to “step across” the cultural, geopolitical lines between India, Pakistan and America. Although the novel ends as if an entangled knot of ideologically driven violence is followed by counter-violence, I suggest that Rushdie proposes instead an ethical reconsideration of violence that requires a crucial recognition/negotiation of self and other.
Alchemy, Imagination, and Hawthorne’s “The Birth-mark”
Author : Joseph Yu
Keywords : Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Birth-mark,” alchemy, imagination
Critics tend to read Hawthorne’s “The Birth-mark” as his concern about his contemporaries’ overbelief in science, and Aylmer, the protagonist, is repeatedly regarded as a “mad scientist.” In my paper I argue that the story is not just about Hawthorne’s reaction against beliefs in humans’ power to control nature or ability in “spiritualizing the material.” More importantly, alchemy should be read as a trope to signify a writer’s imaginative power to transmute “lead or baser metals” into “gold.” This paper also aims to re-contextualize Hawthorne’s story and situate it in its intellectual and cultural moment when literary professionalism was only beginning to emerge and when literature as imaginative work had yet to attain its sanctified status. It was in this context that Hawthorne’s idea of the “truth of the human heart” took shape. I argue that in “The Birth-mark” Hawthorne puts forth great effort to elevate the status of a writer’s imagination and that he regards it as a genuine transformative power. Furthermore, by placing Hawthorne’s alchemistic/artistic figure within a transatlantic context, I argue that Hawthorne was deeply engaged in transatlantic or transcultural encounters through which to fertilize his romance outside of his native soil. He constantly inscribes his tales in transnational events in order to imagine the U.S. present.
Fearful Realty: “The Ghostly Rental” and “His Apparition”
Author : Hsin-ying Li
Keywords : Henry James, “The Ghostly Rental,” William Dean Howells, His Apparition, ghost story, haunted house, market economy
This paper looks at two ghost stories from the late nineteenth century— Henry James’ “The Ghostly Rental” and W. D. Howells’ “His Apparition”— in which people deal with the more mercenary aspects of owning haunted houses. The tales share with earlier Gothic fiction the anxiety over the breakdown of social order and moral chaos—in this case the infringement on private property rights and succession rights without legal remedy. At the same time they echo the traditional Gothic concern over identity, a significant part of which depends on property in American society. Real estate horror stories especially touched a cord with the reader in the late nineteenth century, however, because the age was called “the golden age of housing for the common man” on the one hand, yet also noted for the so-called “housing famine” on the other. Unstable property values due to economic developments and expanding moral perceptions coming from a market economy both added further to the worries over the financial wisdom and the ethical implications of real estate transactions. James’ tale plays with the conflict between the Tenant from Hell and the Landlord from Hell, while highlighting the familial conflict between the moralistically stern father and the financially independent daughter. The real horror as James depicts it is poverty and entrapment in business relations, while the haunting and the sighting both challenge property rights and privacy. Howells’ novella, in comparison, presents the apparition as elusive story material which the hero reshapes over and over with little satisfaction—until he finds the ideal audience in his future wife and thus gives the apparition the role of matchmaker in his own romance. As the guardian angel of the middleclass family, the specter helps exorcise the unbefitting original owner and knocks down the real estate value to the hero’s price range. Placed in the Gothic tradition, James’ story marks a transitional stage where the haunted ancestral hall is still used as a metaphor for the strife between family members, though the rental brings to light the economic nature of the conflict. Howells’ transaction between unrelated characters, meanwhile, underscores the new anxiety over random victimization due to uncertain market factors. The two novelists, with their signature ambiguity and goodhumored irony, revise the conventional haunted house story to illustrate the haunting housing problems and transitional ethos of the age.
Aymani Bugzâr-o-Jâye Khawf Bâsh: Addressing Disciplinary Crisis in Comparative Literature the Sufi Way
Author : 10.6184/TKR.201006_40(2).0007
Keywords : comparative literature, academic crisis, Sufı poetics, Rumı
The paper argues that Sufı discourse, with its long established literary tradition, offers insights that could address the disciplinary challenges facing literature in general, and comparative literature in particular, in the present cultural scenarios of unpredictability and uncertainty. The argument proceeds first by an inquiry into the nature and the possible causes of the “crisis” in which the discipline finds itself and then employs the Sufı discourse of Rumı to suggest an accommodative strategy for the academic practice of literature at the present time. The disciplinary identity of literature, this paper argues, was from its liberal humanist inception doomed to crisis. This was because the “Arnoldian consensus” under which the discipline first established itself, saw literature somewhat as a surrogate religion, but at the same time the critical practice that regulated the disciplinary dynamics remained highly analytical, rational, in ways that were “philosophical” (despite the untenable denials of the likes of Leavis). The present crisis in comparative literature could be seen as a continuation of the crisis that beset the earlier disciplinary identity of literature. Comparative literature did play its part in the fall of the liberal humanist paradigm, but one could say that it did not significantly detach itself from the Euro-centricity that governed the earlier institutional practice. Rumı provides us with an opportunity, an opportunity that is made available by the nature of the discipline itself, to see criticism not simply as a “philosophical” activity that seeks to comprehend and neutralize the unboundedness of the creative. Rumı rejects any feeling of security, closure and completeness that is afforded by a criticism that hasn’t been able to go beyond mimesis. Such a critical acumen Rumı wants us to let go of and “clutch at madness”: “I have tried far-thinking intellect; henceforth I will make myself mad.” The critical activity in Rumı is rather governed by the epistemology of ımân (faith) which prioritizes a certain “hermeneutics of faith” over a “hermeneutics of suspicion” (Deconstruction or Lacanian psychoanalysis, for instance). In a cultural context where one needs to possess a certain Keatsian Negative Capability, of being “in doubts, uncertainties and mysteries without any irritable reaching after fact or reason,” Rumı’s “hermeneutics of faith” may become one way in which we can approach literature.