AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 306

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Session 306: Transnational Literature I

The Role of the Individual in Writing Global History: Case Studies of Three Chinese Transcultural Writers
Sufumi So, George Mason University, USA

This paper presents findings from an interdisciplinary research project on three Chinese authors who crossed geographic and linguistic borders in publishing their literary works—Mu Aiping, an ex-Red Guard Chinese author of a 790-page autobiography written in English; Qiu Xiaolong, an English-language novelist best known for his mystery novels; and Tian Yuan, a Japanese-language poet who received the prestigious Mr. H Prize of the Association of Contemporary Japanese Poets in 2010. The ultimate goal of the project is to explore the potential of biography of transcultural individuals in global historical perspective. Linguistic, rhetorical and emotional experiences of these Chinese native speaker writers have been documented through one-on-one semi-structured interviews. Different elements of their experiences are viewed as intersecting on the vertical axes of a multiplicity of local or individual cultures (localism/personalism) and the horizontal axes of technology seeking universality and standardization (universalism). With this conceptualization as a backdrop, the paper discusses the interview data analyzed and interpreted in light of the theoretical construct of personal global identity, which transcends all prevailing categories of group identity. The main task of analysis in the project was to identify and seek out traits of personal global identity in each of the authors’ experiences and weave them together into a unified whole in the form of oral history. In doing so, this interdisciplinary project, which combines new scholarly traditions of history and applied linguistics, places the individual at the forefront in writing global history that counts on both individuality and diversity.

The Chinese Immigrant Writer Yang Yi and the Transnational Literature in Japanese
Lianying Shan, Gustavus Adolphus College, USA

The emerging transnational literature, as a result of various postcolonial conditions and prevalent migration and travel in the globalized contemporary world, has challenged the nation-based notion of literature and broadened the expressive possibilities for the individual. Yang Yi, a Chinese immigrant in Japan, became the first Chinese to win Japan's prestigious Akutagawa literary award in 2008. Her Japanese narratives describe the lives of Chinese immigrants in Japan and the various Chinese social and political realities that conditioned their migration, including the traumatic Tian’anmen incident of 1989. Both her themes and the various literary and cultural conditions surrounding the publication and favorable reception of her writings require critical inquiry. Chinese immigrants abroad and their cultural memories are marginalized topics in China's mainstream cultural production and consumption. As an immigrant struggling to define her identity, Yang Yi is motivated by both cultural memory and economic necessity to develop narratives about China in the Japanese language. Moreover, the publication and recognition of her narratives in Japan reflect the literary market’s urgent need for fresh and contemporary themes in the literature about China—a fact due to Japanese readers’ political and aesthetic fatigue toward the traditional themes and diction that frequently evoke the past colonial and war history. My paper argues that Yang Yi’s literature and its reception reflect the transformation of the institutions of Japanese and Chinese literature and show the interplay between migration, cultural memory, and translation central to the emerging transnational literature.

Macanese Literature with Sino-Portuguese Cultural Expression: Camilo Pessanha and his Poems
Denise Ngan Hong Wong, Independent Scholar, China

Camilo Pessanha, one of Portugal’s greatest symbolist poets who exiled himself to Macau at the end of the 19th century, while relieving his loneliness through consuming opium, he created some beautiful poems with pure symbolism in Portuguese senses; furthermore, he developed a great interest in Chinese poetry and art. He struggled to acquire the Chinese language, and with help of a friend, translated poems from the Ming Dynasty and published the book Chinese Elegy. Either the poems created or translated by him, those works showed an un-replaceable aesthetic value in Macao’s literature history. The paper intends to explore Camilo Pessanha’s attitude towards literary creation, Chinese culture and the strategy he used to translate Chinese poems.

Romance and Revolution: Han Suyin in America
Daniel Sanderson, Australian National University, Australia

Over her long career, the Chinese-Belgian writer Han Suyin has inhabited, often unwillingly, an array of conflicting personas: novelist, teacher, journalist, lobbyist, propagandist, pornographer, physician, philanthropist, spy and femme fatale. Most controversially, and despite her own frequent claims of political neutrality, Han was one of the few significant public voices during the Cold War to advocate internationally for the Chinese Communist worldview. Many observers have criticised her for political opportunism and a cavalier attitude to the truth. For others, she is a heroic figure - a liberated woman, a warrior against injustice and a passionate campaigner for China’s rightful place in the world. This paper will use Han Suyin’s 1965 lecture tour of America as a means of exploring the diversity of American opinion on China on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Using a combination of contemporary media reports and archival sources, I argue that, during a period of international uncertainty, Han’s personal history and glamorous public persona made her a uniquely effective exponent of the Chinese revolutionary point of view. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate that, despite negative official attitudes towards the People’s Republic, popular American perceptions of China during the period were characterised by a mixture of curiosity, suspicion and sympathy, with considerable parallels 45 years later.

Transcultural Feminine Modernism: Ling Shuhua’s écriture féminine
Mary Mazzilli, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom

Some of the Western approaches to Ling Shuhua’s work acknowledged that the definition of guixiu writer (‘a well-educated woman from a domestic and old-fashioned environment’) is far too restrictive and does not account for the influences of Western feminine modernism on her writing. In “ Gender Negotiations with the Local”, Shu-mei Shih highlights the “transcultural dimension in its incorporation of Western feminine modernism” (2001, p. 228) of Ling Shuhua’s writing. Indeed, Ling Shuhua combines Western feminine modernism with Chinese feminine literary traditions. This paper builds on this definition focusing on the ‘feminine’ voice that comes through Ling’s short stories and how this attempts to subvert the patriarchal discourse. It is because of the supposedly over-feminine nature of her writing privileging ‘trivial events surrounding women and children rather than grand social issues’(ibid. ) that Ling’s writing has been overlooked and considered less subversive than other Chinese women writers of the time, like Ding Ling. This paper, instead, argues that in light of Cixoux’s ideas, it is the feminine voice and her concern with women’s domesticity that make Ling’s writing subversive. In terms of methodology , the theoretical premises of Cixous’s ideas and an analysis of the main features of both Western feminine modernism and pre-Mao Chinese feminine literary tradition will be combined with a reading of some Ling’s short stories (“ The Lucky one”, “Embroidered pillow”, “ Little Liu” etc).

South Asian Diaspora as Multiple Positionings in M.G. Vassanji’s Narrativisation of the Past and Present
Yoko Fujimoto, Waseda University, Japan

Moyez G. Vassanji was born in Kenya and grew up in Tanzania as a descendant of Indian immigrants. He went to university in the United States and then, after earning his PhD in physics at MIT, he relocated to Canada first to teach at the University of Toronto and eventually settled there as a full-time fiction writer. His experience of multiple migrations, not only in geographical terms but also as movements between various modes of otherness as well as different modes of knowledge, is reflected on his works that portray the Indians in and from East Africa. This paper will examine what and how South Asia signifies in Vassanji’s writings, especially in The In-Between World of Vicram Lall(2004), a book created out of his memory of Kenya in its struggle for independence, and A Place Within(2007), a memoir and travelogue based on his trips to his ancestral homeland, India. South Asia figures as the historically specific source and origin of an “other” African viewpoint in his novel, while the latter piece has an effect of featuring the author with his globalized and multicultural sensitivity, showing him rediscover India in both essentializing and disintegrated manners. His status as South Asian diaspora, I will argue, allows him possibilities of multiple positionings, of choosing from various “in-betweennesses”, and thus enlarges his capacity as an artist to respond creatively to complexities of the world.

Grafting Korean, Engendering Koreannness Through the Foreign: Korean American and North Korean Identity as Spy in Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker and Kim Young-Ha’s Your Republic is Calling You.
Ju Young Jin, Indiana University-Bloomington, USA

How and why does the trope of “spy” underscore the persisting logic of Cold War that haunts the images of Korea and Koreans? Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker presents an image of Korean engendered through Korean War that creates a double bind for Henry Park, a second-generation Korean American, who works as a corporate spy hired to sabotage John Kwang, a powerful Korean American councilman running for New York City mayor. Henry must show that he is a model immigrant, benign (South)Korean American who rejects Communism by working for the U.S. that in turn ruthlessly includes him by exclusion: Henry can only be accepted as American as a Korean spy. While Lee’s novel demonstrates the issue of racism masked as nationalism, Kim Young-Ha’s Your Republic is Calling You conflates the issue even further by revealing the hollow core of “national myth” that sustains the nation as witnessed by a North Korean spy transplanted in the heart of Seoul, who exposes “Koreanness” to be none other than a manufactured image by a transnational logic of capital rather than nationalism, thereby finds himself belonging to neither North nor South. This paper examines the role and meaning of “the familiar foreign/spy among us” in Korean nationalist discourse of achieving and fostering “minjok literature(national literature)”, appropriating the foreign/spy as a necessary trope due to the “Two Koreas” situation. Both novels critique the concepts of “citizen” and “nationalism,” by showing how these concepts were transplanted from the West and have been developed by the transnational logic of capital and how the subject has to negotiate the limits of liberal democracy and forge one’s identity as a spy who is overdetermined from without.