Journal Articles

June 2009 - Vol.39 / No.2
Coming Home to Eat: Re-imagining Place in the Age of Global Climate Change
Author : Joni Adamson
Keywords : ecocriticism, sense of place, localism, globalization, food justice, bioregionalism, climate change
In this essay, I set Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life into a context that includes Gary Paul Nabhan’s Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods; Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals; and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. By focusing on local foods, each of these authors raise complex questions for environmental writers and critics including the following: Must environmental writers, critics, or activists, find a local place to which they are willing to commit? Is it even possible in the modern world to live out your life in one place, or have a commitment to one place? Do traditional definitions of “sense of place” continue to be meaningful in the global age? Should environmental writing and criticism reflect, focus or redirect the proliferation of ecodiscourses away from place as it is traditionally understood, and towards an awareness of global ecological developments such as climate change? Building on the work of ecocritics Lawrence Buell and Ursula Heise and anthropologist Arun Appadurai, I analyze how Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, with its focus on Kingsolver’s small farm in Virginia, advances the spirited recent discussions surrounding place studies and literary concepts of “sense of place.” I explore how Kingsolver’s latest book is providing approaches to food production, energy conservation, and climate change that both build upon the best characteristics of conventional eco-localist nonfiction while reimagining the meaning of “sense of place” in the context of globalizing processes.
Lifeshaping a New Planet
Author : Christa Grewe-Volpp
Keywords : ecological coexistence, interdependence, cross-species communication, the posthuman, feminist science fiction, feminist conceptions of science, cyborgs
In her novel The Children Star microbiologist and science fiction writer Joan Slonczewski analyzes the dangers and possibilities of interplanetary ecological coexistence. The human environment has become increasingly uninhabitable due to the abuse of natural resources, over-population, pollution and disease. A new planet, Prokaryon, beautiful but poisonous, might serve as the new habitat for human beings, but it would have to be “lifeshaped” first, which means its ecosystem would have to be destroyed. The decision to keep Prokaryon intact hinges on the discovery of intelligence which implies the ability to communicate across species. The novel raises important ecocritical questions about the consequences of the deep ecological concept of biocentric equality in a world in which humans are not the only intelligent beings. Scientific research is needed to establish contact to aliens radically different from humans, aliens who have already invaded the human body. Slonczewski supports feminist methods of scientific research which stress a conception of human relationship to nature as partnership not domination and the ideal of science as “subjective, relational, holistic, and complex” (Donawerth 2). Communication with the alien, intelligent invaders thus becomes a crucial requirement for survival.
Ecocriticism, Humanism, Eschatological Jouissance: J. G. Ballard and the Ends of the World
Author : Rudolphus Teeuwen
Keywords : humanism, utopia, eschatology, ecocriticism, J. G. Ballard
Eschatological jouissance is defined here as a grim pleasure in the failure of the world. It is a feature of J. G. Ballard’s prescient ecological disaster fiction of the 1960s as well as of the sardonic treatment of ecological idealism in his later fiction. Expressions of pleasure in the end of the world can be seen as forming a counter genre to utopia and, in philosophical terms, as a refusal of humanism. Humanism is defined here as the insistence to see the world from a human point of view. Anti-humanism and a concurring openness to eschatological jouissance are elements of existentialism and of poststructuralism, together with Marxism the main alternatives to humanism proposed in the twentieth century. Ecocriticism, in some of its strands, is another such replacement of humanism in which eschatological jouissance plays a significant role. Humanism may not seem a promising attitude for dealing with the ecological disasters we face, concerned as it is in the first place with the comfort of human beings. Still, it is argued here that humanism includes an awareness of the parochialism of human sympathies and that an appeal to the need to extend its sympathies to non-human sharers of the planet might well be heeded. Eschatological jouissance, as a feature of dystopian fiction and imagination, will provide the needed shudder to nudge us into such an extension of our sympathies.
Twenty-First Century Free Narration
Author : Hans Bertens
Keywords : postmodernism, experimental fiction, free narration, sublime
Since the mid-1990s postmodernism has been repeatedly declared dead. This article argues that those death notices have been premature. Postmodernism is still with us, both in its unadulterated form, and in fascinating combinations with other modes of narration. This interweaving of postmodern techniques with realist, modernist, magical realist or other modes resists easy theorization. That should, however, not stop us from recognizing the role that postmodernism plays in the sort of free narration that the novels in question represent and propagate.
Gaze on/from the Caged Latino Bodies: Imaginary of Tropics and Postcolonial Savage of The Couple in the Cage
Author : Ivy I-chu Chang
Keywords : Latino theater, border art, postcolonial, performativity, the Third Space, Cosmopolitism, tropical, subaltern, ethnicity, theatricality, ethnography, cosmopolitan
“Tropicalization,” first conceived in Levis Strauss’ “Tristes Tropiques,” has been employed by scholars of Latino studies to indicate the cultural contact, travel, translation, and transformation across the United States and its border of the South. Drawing on Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gémez-Peña’s performance in The Couple in the Cage, this essay investigates how the two artists recycle tropes and images of Tropics in what they termed “reverse ethnography,” tracing the disavowed differance of the other and the residual meaning of colonial representation. Their project includes a two-year performance tour around the metropolises in three continents from 1992 to 1993; a video documentary, The Couple in the Cage (1993); and an article, “The Other History of Intercultural Performance,” (1995) which documents audience responses as well as Fusco’s reflections and self-critiques. Employing Judith Butler’s theory of performativity and Homi K. Bhabha’s theorization on the Third Space representation, this essay also attempts to inquire: why and how does the artists’ hybridization of pre-Hispanic savage, subaltern in style and postcolonial chic, create the uncanny encounter for the spectators in modern metropolises? How do they employ inside/out border art to turn their bodies into the cultural and social arena where ideas, myths, fictions, ideologies, and social models are produced, negotiated, and contested? The performativity of postcolonial savage initiates an ambivalent process which disrupts the unitary gaze and the monolithic narrative of European modernity and colonialism; it brings to panorama the diverse enunciation loci and the complex transnational communities among which the ethnic subalterns endeavor to speak.
Passing as Trans-racial Bonding: Philip Roth’s The Human Stain
Author : Shu-li Chang
Keywords : passing, translation, diaspora, trans-racial intimacies
In this paper, I argue that Philip Roth’s The Human Stain departs from the trajectory of traditional passing narratives for it neither celebrates American individualism nor rearticulates Americans’ national identity. Calling attention to Roth’s innovative narrative strategy of having Coleman Silk, the protagonist, pass for a Jew rather than for a Caucasian white man, I argue that Roth’s passing narrative should be read as a fable about an identity politics that goes beyond both race matters and national concerns. Moreover, in having a Jewish narrator to speak for the black protagonist posing as a Jew and sexually involved with a white woman half his age, Roth addresses a problem that diaspora studies has so far not sufficiently addressed: how two diaspora peoples, Jewish Diaspora and African Diaspora, should get along and work together to extend compassion and hospitality towards each other. What interests me is, on the one hand, in so mimicking Jewishness, Coleman is necessarily to be haunted by “the Jewish Question.” On the other hand, given passing necessarily presupposes secrecy as well as its unveiling, that the tale of Coleman’s “passing” should “pass” for a tale of sex scandal suggests that Roth’s novel is as much about racial relation as it is about sex and passion, a passion that allows an aging black man to understand, rather than to simply feel or to identify with, the suffering experienced by those minorities—Jews and de-classed women—whose identities are, at least partially, constituted by histories of slavery, diaspora, and trauma. In complicating the trope of “passing” so that it is at once racial passing, feinted illiteracy, class pretense, generic errancy, and productive misreading, Roth swerves from the rigidity of an identity politics that pits blacks against whites to the ambivalence of trans- racial connection and translation, while tracing the affective contours of the struggles as well as solidarities between ethnicities caught in the turbulence of migration.
The Inevitability of the Untranslatable: A Cultural Translation of Huang Chunming’s “To the Warriors!”
Author : Tzuhsiu (Beryl) Chiu
Keywords : Postmodern translation theories, cultural translation, Chinese literature of Taiwan, Huang Chunming’s “To the Warriors”
Recent scholarly discourse recognizes the importance of translation in teaching and research, especially in cross-cultural contexts. Chiefly, this is because translation is not just a simple act of linguistic decoding, but also involves cultural reconstruction and interpretation of the author’s intent, tone and focus, be it conscious or not. Indeed, owing to Western post/modern translation theories, the academic trend has shifted from stressing a literal, absolute, and authoritarian version to focusing on the discursively representative, relative, “deferred,” or “in between” in a cross-cultural perspective. In order to tackle the several transformed cultural landscapes in Taiwan, Hanping Chiu (2001) attempts to construct a translation theory by integrating Benjamin’s notion of “pure language” into ancient Chinese philosophies, particularly Zen Buddhism, in terms of parallel notions of the liminal state of human languages. I will explore such inevitability of the untranslatable by closely reading Huang Chunming’s narrative (1988), an adapted play script (1994) and a poem (2005), all having the title “To the Warriors.” While my close reading will show the inevitability of the untranslatable due to the “deferred” nature of languages synchronically and diachronically, my further elaboration of the transformed postcolonial cultural mentalities in Taiwan and of Huang’s over the decades will manifest them due to similarly “deferred” nature of cultural mentalities. Such inevitability is precisely in accord with Chiu’s translation theory. In light of his stress on the liminality of cultural translation, some transcultural significances of the transitional inevitability of the untranslatable will also be suggested.