Journal Articles

December 2010 - Vol.41/No.1
Experiments in Self-Narration in Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction
Author : Terry Siu-han Yip
Keywords : self fashioning, cultural identity, subjectivity, experimentations, narrative modes, gender, modernization, deconstruction
Storytelling is a form of expression through which the narrator seeks to better understand not just the world around but also his or her self. That implies the narration of the self is often related to the construction or deconstruction of the self as the subject. In many literary works from both China and Western Europe, writers often examine self-formation in relation to the socio-cultural milieu, which immediately puts the individual at odds with the rational, collective, or political group. Such concerns have been the focal point of many writers of the twentieth century whose experimentations with the narrative mode reflect not only their artistic inclinations and conscious attempts to break from existing paradigms to reach new frontiers, but also their ardent desire to make sense of their experience and to position themselves and understand their selves in the flux of change. Influenced by their European counterparts, many Chinese writers such as Yu Dafu, Lu Yin and Ding Ling in the 1920s, and Zhang Xinxin and Gao Xingjian in the 1980s and 1990s have all attempted to break from prevailing/ dominant modes of narrative that tend to treat literature as personal testimonies or socio-moral manifestoes. They consciously look for alternate modes of expression—new modes that allow them to address the personal and the psycho-cultural aspects of existence. Presented in their writings are individuals caught in conflicts between traditional and modern culture, and between Chinese and Western values. Their conscious quest for a new identity and their attempts to (de)construct their individual selves reveal the cultural disorientation in China. Viewed in this light, the significance of the selected texts lies not so much in their comments on culture, sexuality, politics and history as in their modes of narrative. The writers’ experimentations with the narrative mode enable them to fully explore the essence of self as understood by the Chinese, the process of construction or deconstruction of the self, their general concerns over cultural issues, including issues pertaining to role identity and the formation of cultural identity, as well as their inquiry into the impact of Westernization and/or modernization on the individual.
Dynamics of the Debates on the Chinese Question in The Chinese Must Go
Author : Hsin-yun Ou
Keywords : the Chinese Question, immigration, ethnicity, labor, the Chinese Exclusion Act
Scholars tend to regard the anti-Chinese movement as the mainstream reaction to Chinese immigration in the late nineteenth century, and neglect other distinctive attitudes toward Chinese labor. In Henry Grimm’s The Chinese Must Go, however, part of the characterization and dialogue evoke diverse voices. To place the play within the larger context of other representations of the Chinese during the period immediately preceding exclusion, this essay discusses contentions pertaining to the Chinese Question publicized in contemporaneous newspapers, magazines and legal documents. Through a reading of the play in relation to its historical background, this essay argues that, while Grimm’s play appeals to white workingmen and the middle class by staging the Chinese as job competitors, slave-sellers, opium smokers, and potential seducers of white women, it is an ironic reminder of several misconceptions about circumstances surrounding Chinese immigrants, which pro-Chinese Americans had endeavored to rectify
Linguistic-Cultural Schizophrenia: Reading Xu Xi Writing Hong Kong
Author : Christopher Payne
Keywords : Hong Kong literature, Anglophone writing, alternative worlds, mainstream cultural discourse, linguistic-cultural schizophrenia, Xu Xi
This article focuses on English language literature in Hong Kong, particularly the contemporary author Xu Xi. First exploring the problematic status of literature in the former colony, outlining its perceived marginality vis-à-vis Sinophone and Anglophone traditions since the 1950s, the essay highlights how Xu Xi’s discursive articulation of Hong Kong presents, in her words, a “city-village” that is vibrant, evanescent, and filled with the minutiae of life lived. Her choice to employ English is particularly interesting, especially in light of the colonial and commercial baggage the language still has in the city, and its contradictory centeredness and peripherality. But for Xu Xi, writing in English was “natural” for she grew up without a “mother tongue.” A wahkiu wanderer, English was the only means to express her state of “linguistic-cultural schizophrenia.” Her stories are most assuredly for the city’s residents, but simultaneously they resound with a transnational audience accustomed to reading works of fiction in English. In a sense, Xu Xi’s works exemplify the glocalness of the language. They articulate, in the words of the poet Luis H. Francia, a placeless placeness, a “contradictory condition—at home everywhere and nowhere.” If Hong Kong literature is to have its own trans/inter/national future, perhaps the unique contributions of the city’s Anglophone writers is the key to carving out a niche of their own.
Feminist Performativity of Monstrosity, Cyborg, and Posthuman Subjectivity: Orlan’s Carnal Art
Author : Ivy I-chu Chang
Keywords : cyborg, Orlan, performance, Carnal Art, performativity, Body Without Organ, posthuman, feminism, molecular woman, plastic surgery, face
Beginning in 1990, French performing artist Orlan launched her decade- long project of “Carnal Art,” in which she has undergone nine surgical operations, with each being directed and videotaped, called “disfiguration and refiguration of body.” Orlan’s cosmetic surgery transplants onto her face the goddesses’ and female’s features from Western canonical paintings: Europa’s mouth, Mona Lisa’s forehead, Venus’s chin, Diana’s eyes and brows, and Psyche’s nose. Among this project, the seventh operation-performance “Omnipresence” at Sandra Gering gallery, New York, was transmitted live by satellite to Paris and Toronto. In addition, aided with electronic apparatuses, she created a series of computer-generated self-portraits as hybridization of woman, monster, and cyborg in recourse to the Mayan beauties of Mexican culture. She is one of the first French female artists who started to exploit the potential of new digital media in contemporary art practices. Presenting a series of multimedia installation of mediated body in various international festivals, she explores the issue of absent body, synthetic body parts, dematerialization, and invisibility. This paper will investigate how Orlan toys with the boundary of interior/ exterior along the tropes of monster/(m)other/machine continuum, which envisions the posthuman feminist subject through the vantage point of Donna Haraway’s cyborg feminism. Moreover, this paper will utilize Artaud’s theatrical notion and Deleuze and Guattari’s theories of “Body without Organ” to analyze how Orlan integrates body art, surgery technology and media technology to reach the cybernetic transgression which transforms her from a “molar woman” to a “molecular woman”, making female body the site of “dematerialization” and “re-materialization” of sex and gender.
The Nation and the Colony: On the Japanese Rhetoric of Gaichi Bungaku
Author : Yu-lin Lee
Keywords : Shimada Kinji, gaichi literature, exoticism, Japanese colonial literature, Sato Haruo, Nishikawa Michiru
During the colonial period Japanese comparatist Shimada Kinji introduced the term gaichi bungaku, which literally meant “literature about foreign places,” in order to include literature from the Taiwan colony in the Japanese imperial literary canon. The term gaichi signified a geographical, epistemological otherness to be recognized and exploited even as it heralded a “textual aporia” that dissolved exotic boundaries. Gaichi refers to land outside of the empire’s territory; but defining the literature of Taiwan as outside of Japan situated it within the Japanese context. Thus this outside literature was included by way of its own exclusion. By examining Shimada’s theory of gaichi literature, this paper aims to demonstrate the process of interiorizing the outside and how an exotic project transformed itself into a Japanese colonial ideology.
The Untold Stories of Beowulf: Cinematic Renditions and Textual Interpretations
Author : Kuo-jung Chen
Keywords : Beowulf, monster, cinematic renditions, textual interpretations
This essay attempts to establish a dialogic relationship between cinematic renditions and textual interpretations of Beowulf. Aside from analyzing some key issues—moral, existential, ecological—in the poem, I also focus on its three film adaptations: Graham Baker’s 1999 futuristic/science fiction Beowulf, Sturla Gunnarsson’s 2005 Beowulf and Grendel, and Robert Zemeckis’s 2007 motion-captured/computer-generated Beowulf. The dichotomy of good vs. evil in the original poem is endowed with new meanings as all three films seek to have Grendel and his mother interact biologically and sexually with human characters. Cosmic struggles against the external evil are thus localized to struggles against one’s guilty conscience and hidden past. The heroic codes of the Anglo-Saxon world are turned upside down. Redemption, instead of revenge, can redefine the essential meaning of the poem. Therefore, the perspectives and renditions made available by films may simultaneously arm readers with effective weapons to deal with “monsters” and may help to quicken the pulse of the seemingly dormant ancient poem. The cinematic renditions of Beowulf, with their media-specific characteristics, can help to keep this first masterpiece of English literature “a vital part of modern culture.” Using film adaptations of Beowulf either as a pre-reading introduction or as a post-reading companion to the original poem may prove to be thought-provoking and mind-inspiring because the critical techniques in viewing a film—predictions, connections, inferences, and interpretations—are also valid in reading a written text.
Evil Eye, Evil Sound, and Evil Time: The Superfluous Man and the Parallax View of Evil in Chekhov
Author : Jun-nan Chou
Keywords : Chekhov, superfluous man, evil, parallax view, death drive
The superfluous man, which represents Russian intelligentsia in 19th century Russia, is one of the recurrent evil figures in 19th century Russian literature. The superfluous man has to do with the debates between the “Westernizers” (those who support applying western liberal ideas into Russian soil) and the “Slavophiles” (those who insist on preserving traditional Russian culture or morality from the process of westernalization) among the intelligentsia. The “Westernizers” and the “Slavophiles” each accuse the other of being the true “superfluous man” plaguing society. The “Westernizers” insist the “Slavophiles” are obsessive and idealist “Quixotes,” and the “Slavophiles” accuse the “Westernizers” of being indecisive and ineffectual “Hamlets.” The different schools of intelligentsia, figured through the confrontation between the Hamlet type of character and the Quixote type of character, see each other as the evil cause of the social crisis in 19th century Russia. In the confrontation between the figures of Hamlet and Quixote as the two sides of the superfluous man, in fact, we can see three different levels of evil, representing three different ways of dealing with the “superfluity” (surplus) of the superfluous man. We will borrow the Lacanian idea of surplus enjoyment (or the objet a) to decode the “surplus” of the superfluous man and explain the three levels of evil—evil eye, evil sound, and evil time—in terms of the three ways of dealing with surplus enjoyment of the superfluous man. At the level of the evil eye, the surplus (enjoyment) of the superfluous man is seen as an evil double, which invites resentment and envy in the subject. At the level of the evil sound, the surplus of the superfluous man is compared to the superego, which causes a sense of guilt in the subject. Finally, at the level of evil time, the surplus of the superfluous man is identified as the death drive of the subject, which causes a repetition of failure (trauma) or nihilism in the subject. These three levels of evil constitute a “transposition” or “parallax view” of evil which provides three different perspectives of the superfluous man and the issue of evil figured by it. The death drive is the ultimate level of evil, serving as the basis of all other levels of evil, and opening up the space of ethics. We will use three of Chekhov’s works—“Gooseberries,” “The Duel,” and The Cherry Orchard—to illustrate the three levels of evil surrounding the figure of the superfluous man.