Faces of Modern American Literature—a Transnational and Transcultural Reading Zhu Ying Julia American Studies Program East China Normal University 1 June 2007, Shanghai Outline • I. The Past is an Inexhaustible Resource— Toni Morrison’s Beloved • II. The Past Survives through Traces— Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee • III. The Past as an Uncanny Trespasser— David Marshall Chan’s “Goblin Fruit” Paul Ricoeur: The Reality of the Historical Past (1984) • “three categories” The Same: the past is reenacted in the present through documentary evidence and imaginative construction The Other: the past is a pertinent absence due to temporal distance and otherness The Analogue: the past is recreated by the integration of reenacting and distancing I. The Past is an Inexhaustible Resource—Toni Morrison’s Beloved a. Living and Imagining the Historical— revising “the Same” slave-narrative tradition b. Rememorying the Past: Configuring and Translation—Beloved and rememory as “the Other” c. History Goes on: Repatterned and Reenacted—storytelling as a process of “the Analogue” Toni Morrison “I can’t change the future but I can change the past” (Taylor-Guthrie xiii) “National Amnesia” • “We live in a land where the past is always erased,” Morrison contends, “[t]he past is absent or it’s romanticized. This [American] culture doesn't encourage dwelling on, let alone coming to terms with the truth about the past” (Gilroy 179). Historical Evidence & Historical Imagination • Margaret Garner & “A Tale of Horror” in The Cincinnati Daily Enquirer (29 Jan. 1856) James Van Der Zee’s photostory in The Harlem Book of the Dead (1978) a. Beloved as a historical novel • It comes to those • Sethe’s back—Amy “a terrible spaces that chokecherry tree” nineteenth-century autobiographical slave • The tree (trace) of scars on Sethe’s back is narratives could not a living trace or record write about of the sufferings of the • It “rips that veil drawn slaves; a bearer of over ‘proceedings too “mute testimony to terrible to relate’ (Morrison, “Site” 110) forgotten histories” (Ellmann 46) b. Rememory & Beloved • Morrison’s coinage: noun and verb; visual and spatial quality; individual and collective (Beloved 3536) • “memory as thought” with a threat of repetition (Derrida 106) • “continual entry and re-entry of past into present” (Ferguson 112) • Sethe’s murdered daughter returned—an incubus of personal past • Survivor from the Middle Passage— a historical “trace” • Unceremoniously buried slaves—an absence of history c. Reenacting with a Difference • Definers vs. Defined—Schoolteacher, sheriff, Paul D., and Sethe • double entendre— “pass on” sharing & overlooking • ambivalent ending— “Beloved” remembrance & forgetfulness Historia vs. Fictio (Facere) • As a work of fiction “bound up with history,” Beloved aims “to free, retrospectively, certain possibilities that were not actualized in the historical past, […] [and] to perform its liberating function. The quasi-past of fiction in this way becomes the detector of possibilities buried in the actual past” (Ricoeur, “Interweaving” 191-92) II. The Past Survives through Traces—Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee • “From another epic another history. From the missing narrative. From the multitude of narratives. Missing. From the chronicles. For another telling for other recitations” • • (Dictee 81) Paul Ricoeur • “the past survive[s] by leaving a trace” • • --The Reality of the Historical Past (11) Ricoeur’s Three Categories • a. “The Same”—Dictee is an imaginative and incoherent re-construction of documentary facts • b. “The Other”—Dictee is a female and polycultural side of the Word • c. “The Analogue”—Dictee is an enigmatic re-enactment of history and poetry a. Dictee is a generic hybrid • Various dictation and translation exercises, including prayers, liturgical texts, mythological allusions, documents of Korean history, which is a history of repression but also one of rebellion against the political and cultural repression by the Japanese. • Cha’s mother’s history of exile in Manchuria where she was forbidden to speak her Korean mother tongue. • The uprising of 1919 led by the Korean Jeanne d’Arc, Yu Guan Soon, in which thousands were killed. collage • Personal letters, passages from history books, a petition sent by Hawaiian Koreans to President Theodore Roosevelt about the brutality of the Japanese Occupation (that the President ignored); • Excerpts from the autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux with a variety of visual texts; • Empty pages and spaces between paragraphs marking rapture, collapse of voice, or meditative silence; photographs, film stills, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese pictorial signs, the reproductions of handwritten letters, of paintings, maps, and illustrations such as four views of the larynx where voice is formed, speech uttered. Dictee (1982) • A product of dictation—a French dictation, presumably at a school of French Catholic missionaries. • “Dictee,” “dictation” opens a wide range of associations concerning power and repression: the mind’s submission to the authority of the written word—from the rule of teachers to that of priests or missionaries, dictators and military oppressors, colonial regimes, or bureaucratic dispensers of immigrant identity. b. dictée • A metaphor of political, linguistic, and cultural dominance. • Dictée has an additional meaning—the person who receives, is perhaps even formed by, dictation, is female since “dictée” also implies the gender of its object. • Against the male and (mono)cultural written dictum/decree, it sets a female voice and a polycultural perception that emphasizes difference. Dictee—nine chapters • “Diseuse” the opening section—identifies the narrator as female story teller, but also implies that someone is being spoken, who repeats and mimics but cannot yet speak for herself, stutters and stammers but is slowly and painfully finding voice and articulation: “The wait from pain to say. To not to. Say…The pause. Uttering. Hers now. Hers bare. The utter” (4/5). The Word • To submit, to give in to dictation is to take in, to internalize, the Word. But the tongue that takes the Host (the Word made Flesh) is also the tongue that is to utter speech in a foreign tongue; as much as it is the place of the lost or forbidden mother tongue. The dictation: GOD WHO HAS MADE YOU IN HIS OWN LIKENESS is accepted and repeated but also turned around in rebellious parody. c. Clio History • Prelude to the first chapter—a defiant evocation of the nominal: “In Nomine/ Le Nom/ Nomine” (21) associates “In Nomine Patris,” in the “Name of the Father,” which, according to Lacan, is also the Law of the Father: “le Non du Père.” • Inscribed in the very dictation of the title is thus also the rebellion of the one dictated to (dictée)— and the dissolution of dictation into the multicultural, multilingual, multimedial play/performance of the text as “counterscript” (18). Nine & Myth • Nine chapters named after nine muses, the daughters of Mnemosyne—the Greek goddess of memory, who had lain with Zeus for nine successive nights and give birth for nine successive days. • Allusions to Demeter who, in her grief, wandered nine days with flaming torches in her hands in search of her daughter Persephone. First & final pages • The first page is a photograph of an anonymous wall carving, according to secondary sources, it says in Korean script: “Mother, I miss you, I am hungry, I want to go home to my native place”—this was probably scratched into a wall by Korean prisoners during Korea’s occupation by the Japanese. • The final page is a photograph cut to show nine Korean students (among them the martyred Yu Guan Soon). Lost & Found • Text • Subtext: • The loss of voice and native place, the repression of mother tongue, the pain of division and fragmentation • Connected with the number nine, is reconstructive, stages a finding of voice, a homecoming and a reunion of daughter and mother. POLYMNIA • • • • • • • SACRED POETRY “Words cast each by each to weather avowed indisputably, to time, If it should impress, make fossil trace of word, residue of word, stand as a ruin stands, simply, as mark having relinquished itself to time to distance” (177) Dictee as a “poetic” reading of the historical “trace” • The text, although seemingly finding rest in a final vision of return, in fact, oscillates in the memory of absent presence since it can “mark” origin (“home”) only as lost to “time” and “distance”—as “trace” inscribed, and as “ruin” re-presented, in the word. • To evoke a pre-linguistic state of mind and communication that can yet be rendered only in and through words, a language beyond the dictate of the Father—a new (yet also re-constructed) Mother tongue. Cha: • “The main body of my work is with Language, ‘looking for the roots of language before it is born on the tip of the tongue.’” (Cha in Lewallen 80) • “My work […] has been a series of metaphors for the return, going back to a lost time and space, always in the imaginary. The content of my work has been the realization of the imprint, the inscription etched from the experience of leaving, the experience of America.” (Cha in Lewallen 76) Counterscript • The writing grew out of the painful experience of loss and exile, but opened up and explored a new, if purely linguistic, space of belonging: the language before ‘dictation’ where open, fluid, multiple (female) self is able to find voice and home in the very gaps and silences of the scattered text. III. The Past as an Uncanny Trespasser—David Marshall Chan’s “Goblin Fruit” • “I want this all to be a fiction, something I made up, something entirely of my own invention.” • “I want to wake up and have the past eighteen years be just a dream.” • -- “Goblin Fruit” (39) “Dream” • a. The “Same” Hollywood dream of fame. • b. The frustration of an “Other” imposter. • c. The living pain of being an “Analogous” brother. a. Show business • “[…] the only work I read for requires an accent: Japanese businessmen I’m too young to pull off, or Korean grocers or Chinese restaurant delivery boys […]” (28). • “The only roles I ever get, it seems, are all in martial arts flicks, minor one-line parts […]” (43). • “Why is my life like the plot engine of an old Bruce Lee film?” (43). The World of Suzy Wong • “And the bad roles and bad haircuts and stifled careers of the Asian American actors of the 70s and 80s and before, I sometimes feel all that history ought to have created a better place for actors like me. Our passages should have been paid, for a world without the Charlie Chans, the Suzy Wongs, the kowtowing maids and butlers and delivery boys. What happened, I want to know? How did that older generation let it slip through their fingers?” (44) “everybody was too busy kung fu fighting” • “The old-timers—the Chinese who first came to America—hid their true names, adopted false ones; I read this in college in an ethnic autobiography. They did this to elude their enemies and American officials, all those who were potential threats to them” (46). b. “I’m invisible” • “I’ve stolen my brother’s name. I’ve lost my own name and replaced it with a dead boy’s. I no longer call myself D., but am now M. around town, some people recognized me for the imposter I am. Others—casting agents, cameramen, other former child actors who’ve worked with my brother—become unnerved upon seeing me, mistaking me for the original M., or perhaps not wanting to remember how my brother died. To most people, though, I’m invisible” (23). Goblin Men • “[…] we’re pitching it as the dark side of the E.T. story—like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids meets Aliens meets the Persephone myth as written by Clive Barker” (34) • read pages 34-35. c. Dream of a dead brother • “He’s [M’s] been trespassing in my dreams. He’s taken residence in my thoughts. Maybe he’s made that I’ve stolen his name” (46). • “Maybe M. doesn’t know that I mean him no harm, that all of my success is his own, all of it achieved in his shadow. He reduces me to a phantom of himself—his legacy, his memory” (46-7). • “Their floodlights shine through to the dark corners of the room, revealing nothing, no ghosts” (47). The End Thank you!