Journal Articles

Spring Summer 2005 - Vol.35/No.3-4
“The Moral Fuzziness of the English Was Meteorologically Induced”: De-fetishization of Difference in Salman Rushdie
Author : Chun-yen Chen
Keywords : difference, postcoloniality, Salman Rushdie, overdetermination Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses
This paper seeks to intervene in current postcolonial theory by contesting the primacy of the idiom of difference in postcolonial inquiries. I propose that, in both The Satanic Verses and Midnight's Children, Rushdie demonstrates how postcoloniality is first and foremost an overdetermined inscription—that is, postcoloniality names a condition wherein the postcolonial subject has to stumble through proliferated national, cultural, and linguistic metaphors, with the putative “national allegory” being the ultimate articulation of such metaphoricity. This motif is forcefully figured in Rushdie’s novels by a haunting sameness in or of the materiality of the text and in the constant interruption of the ethos of difference.
Ebola Syndrome: Media and the Meltdown of Guiding Distinctions
Author : James A. Steintrager
Keywords : Ebola virus, mass media, systems theory, ace, climate, Hollywood, Hong Kong cinema
In the 1995 Hollywood film Outbreak, which drew heavily on Richard Preston’s best-selling non-fictional exposé concerning the Ebola virus The Hot Zone, a virulent virus of African origins erupts in a small town in the United States and threatens to engulf humanity at large. I argue that this film, while it acknowledges and plays on contemporary concerns about globalization and ecological damage, simultaneously provides the viewer with a reassuringly outmoded world picture. In particular, the film sends the message that familiar boundaries of race and nation, although threatened, remain intact. Similarly, while the virus is distinctly amoral, the depiction of those who combat it reaffirms individual ethical action. Taking the virus as a figure for contemporary information technologies, however, we can see that the film’s messages are actually undermined by its medium. Like the virus, film and related technologies undo national borders, racial ideologies, and put into question human agency, even where content works against this. | then consider two recent theories of mass media in order to determine their aptness to explain this clash of medium and message. Paul Virilio’s theory that technology once it reaches a certain thresholds of speed and size changes the way in which we experience reality resonates with the notion of the Ebola virus as figure for contemporary mass media. On the other hand, Virilio’s work also shows a post-structuralist tendency to revert to reality as ground, even if only as lost and mourned. Niklas Luhmann’s work on mass media, while it avoids the pitfalls of foundationalism, is too sanguine in its assessment that contemporary media can provide a construction of reality. I conclude with an examination of how the Hong Kong horror film Ebola Syndrome suggests that the pop-cultural containment strategies of Outbreak—as well as the more theoretical strategies of Virilio and Luhmann—are no longer viable.
Heat and Pleasure down under: Holy Smoke and Its Challenges
Author : Shen Shiao-Ying
Keywords : Jane Campion, Holy Smoke, Australian cinema, Laleen Jayamanne heat, A Song of Ceylon, Tracey Moffatt, Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy, pleasure, disarticulation
Through an analysis of Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke, this paper looks at the turn-of-the-millennium filmic exploration of female experience, specifically as this experience is articulated through filmic representations of heat. By bringing in two other Australian films-A Song of Ceylon and Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy—the paper further probes the question of how the notion of visual pleasure can be understood in a different light as female filmmakers are increasingly engaged in the construction of the visual.
Weather, Aesthetics and Imperial Ambivalence in Two Nineteenth Century Travelogues about the “Torrid Zones”
Author : Eric K.W. Yu
Keywords : aesthetics, Alexander von Humboldt, imperial ambivalence, tropics climate, Mary Kingsley, travel and exploration, weather
This essay explores the significance of weather in two travel classics in relation to the ambivalence of imperial encounters and authority in European travel writing during the heyday of imperialism. Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent (1814-1829) and Mary Kingsley’s Travels in West Africa (1897) are examined in turn. With respect to the former, I examine Humboldt’s ambivalent attitude toward colonialism as exemplified by his unequal treatment of the Creole settlers and the natives in Spanish America. I argue that the author’s descriptions of the unwelcoming climate and of his own personal frustrations during the renowned 5-year scientific expedition do not really amount to a critique of empire. With Kingsley, I highlight the conflicts between what Sara Mills calls “colonial” and “feminine” discourses in her travel writing, conflicts which indicate her much more profound imperial ambivalence. I try to deepen Mills’ analysis with a keen eye for the depiction of weather conditions in Travels. As the representation of weather often involves landscape descriptions, where necessary I try to account for the ideological implications of the landscape “aesthetics” in these two 19th-century travelogues about the “torrid zones.”
In the Heat of the Night: Teaching the American Nightmare to the World
Author : Alice Mikal Craven
Keywords : American nightmare, John Ball, Black separatism, Dr. Pepper globalization, in the Heat of the Night, Norman Jewison, Moss Kendrix, Rodney King, Malcolm X Medium Cool, Night of the Living Dead, No Logo, provincialism, Scott Silliphant Suture theory, T. Todorov, Cornel West, Haskell Wexler
Cultures built on the ideological promise of a dream life will have recourse to the metaphor of the nightmare when confronting moments of conflict in their evolutions. The feverish nightmare of the civil rights’ struggles in the United States 60’s was experienced by Norman Jewison (director of In the Heat of the Night in 1967) and known to Spike Lee (Malcolm X 1993). One stark difference in their heartfelt, didactic treatments of this tempestuous period is that Spike Lee’s film remains fixed on the literal tensions of race relations in the U.S. Norman Jewison’s film constructs a semiotics of the complicity between commercial imagery and narrative depictions of race relations, notably, the image of the South's soft drink industry as a thirst quenching alternative to true racial reform. Cinematographer Haskell Wexler is instrumental in highlighting these links. The article suggests Jewison’s film as a pedagogic base for further considering how American corporate culture used and continues to use depictions of race to suppress real racial reform in its relations with the rest of the world.
Writing Fever, Writing Trauma: Tropical Disease and Tribal Medicine— The Columbian Exchange in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead and Gardens in the Dunes
Author : Hsinya Huang
Keywords : fever, trauma, tropical disease, tribal medicine, Leslie, Marmon Silko
This paper studies Native American encounters with colonial disease and configures this disease categorically as “fever.” Fever is not to be seen as a pure physical symptom only, but is a cultural metaphor of Native trauma as well as a bodily reflection of the drought in Native homelands. Whereas trauma is understood as an inner inflammation of the psyche, fever is the acting out of such a psychological wound. It is a sign of disease, but it is, more importantly, that of resistance to disease. Using two of Leslie Marmon Silko’s novels, Almanac of the Dead (1991) and Gardens in the Dunes (1999), I look into the ways fever becomes a finalized reaction of the Native American body defending itself against a pathogenic attack. I argue for the function of fever as the “working through” as well as the “acting out” of Native American psychological, spiritual, and historical trauma. Appropriating and reinventing fever as a cultural metaphor, Silko not only discloses the bitterness and poignancy of Native American traumatic history but locates tribal resistance and healing in the salutary value of fever to instill health, harmony, and balance in both the tribal body and the land.
When the Womb Heats Up, the Vapors Rise, & the Mother Suffocates: The Question of Lear’s “Mother”
Author : Tsu-Chung Su
Keywords : Shakespeare, King Lear, hysteria, mother, womb, Edward Jorden, Samuel Harsnett, the feminine other, self-fashioning
In Act Il, Scene iv, Lear conjures up the image of the “mother” to express his outburst of rage and physical sensations: “O! how this mother swells up toward my heart; /Hysterica passio! down, thou climbing sorrow! /Thy element’s below” (54-56). As many critics have identified, this “mother” is another name for the womb, matrix, or uterus. The image of the “swelling mother” points to the disease called hysteria. Yet, what does the “mother” stand for? Who is responsible for the rise or swelling of Lear’s “mother”? Does Lear experience some sort of gender confusion by conjuring up the “mother”? Or is Lear a male hysteric? One thing is certain that the swelling of the “mother” in Lear is overwhelmingly sophisticated. The obscure, restless, and out of place “mother” in Lear is not only the symptomatic focus of the play but also the locus from which we can reformulate our position and read the play anew. What concerns us most in this paper is the way the mother affects Lear and shapes his rite of passage into self-knowledge. In other words, the purpose of this paper is to explore the theme of hysteria, to trace the effects of the swelling of the “mother,” and to analyze its multifarious manifestations in Shakespeare’s King Lear. In this paper, our approach to Lear’s “mother” is topical, new historical, and feminist. We argue that the image of the “mother” provides us with a critical perspective to engage the patriarchal structure and examine gendered discourses and implications in the play. As a result, this paper, by re-reading King Lear in the name of the “mother,” shows the working of the binary mechanism embedded in Lear’s patriarchal authority and self-fashioning.
Ghost-writing: Trauma and Queer Performativity in Taiwanese Lesbian Fiction
Author : Liang-ya Liou
Keywords : Taiwanese lesbian fiction, trauma, ghost, queer performativity, Chiu Miao-ji, Notes of the Crocodile, Chang Yi-shuan, “The Blissful Haunted House”
Due to social hostility, some Taiwanese lesbian fictions appear in the form of “ghost-writing,” concerned with the ghost-status of the lesbian. Among them, I find Chiu Miao-jin’s lesbian novel Notes of the Crocodile and Chang Yi-shuan’s short story “The Blissful Haunted House” particularly intriguing. Both fictions are Bildungsromans retrospectively delving into the trauma of growing up lesbian; both use queer performativity to transform shame into proud self-display and thereby produce meaning and subjectivity. Drawing from Zizek’s interpretation of the Lacanian notions of the biological death and the symbolic death and the gap between them, I argue that if the patriarchal symbolic denies the existence of lesbianism and sentences the lesbian to symbolic death prior to her biological death, then the narrator of either fiction can be seen as using the public space between her and the reader to deal with the ghosting, and this also involves the Lacanian gap between the two deaths. Both narrators deploy various kinds of strategies to fight the system, presenting the lesbian as more than just a sublime ghost or a fearsome monster, for they also portray the lesbian as a child or a trickster refusing the symbolic death and mischievously donning the costumes of the ghost and the monster to terrify the straight. This paper will deal with the ghost-writing of these two fictions, exploring how the narrators alternate the tropes of the ghost and the monster with different strategies in presenting the lesbian’s trauma and queer performativity and thereby renegotiate the lesbian’s space in the symbolic order.
Sun Scream: Alfred Hitchcock and the Anxiety of the Tourist
Author : Robert R. Shandley
Keywords : Hitchcock, widescreen cinema, tourism, auterism, runaway production
Why is To Catch a Thief ignored by those who study Hitchcock? To Catch a Thief was the director’s first film filmed primarily on location. And, it was his first experiment with widescreen format cinema. The combination of these two factors puts the director in an insecure position not dissimilar to the insecure nouvelle riche tourists depicted in the film. Hitchcock is unable to reproduce the conditions he has at home and thus ends up making a film that makes him little more than an average tourist who has lost her jewels.
Walking amidst a Disembodied City: Corporeal Representation and Abject Imagesin Charles Baudelaire's Parisian Flanerie
Author : Jen-yi Hsu
Keywords : Charles Baudelaire,Tableux parisiens, the Uncanny, the abject,the body, the Other, urban representation, modernity
Several of Baudelaire’s poems in Tableux parisiens depict the uncanny scene in which the repressed creaks through the hygienic, glittering fagade of Haussmann’s urban planning. The ineradicable presence of these ragged people is uncannily linked with the tropes of the body, the dangerous, the abject, the sultry or the exotic—impurities that the hygienic bourgeois ideology of Haussmann’s urban planning tries to cleanse itself of, tirelessly. informed by theorists such as Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Michel de Certeau, Victor Burgin, Martin Jay, Kristeva, Freud, and so forth, this paper analyzes the “corporeal” aspect in Baudelaire’s poems and argues that by the very token of purification and rejection implicit in Haussmann’s homogenizing tendency of urban transformation which aims to get rid of those unwanted and the bodily messiness, the same gesture, paradoxically, inscribes its disavowed cultural other within itself.