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Literature > Asian Literature

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The Scent of the Gods Cover

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The Scent of the Gods

Fiona Cheong

The Scent of the Gods tells the enchanting, haunting story of a young girl's coming of age in Singapore during the tumultuous years of its formation as a nation. Eleven-year-old Su Yen bears witness to the secretive lives of "grown-ups" in her diasporic Chinese family and to the veiled threats in Southeast Asia during the Cold War years. From a child's limited perspective, the novel depicts the emerging awareness of sexuality in both its beauty and its consequences, especially for women. In the context of postcolonial politics, Fiona Cheong skillfully parallels the uncertainties of adolescence with the growing paranoia of a population kept on alert to communist infiltration. In luminous prose, the novel raises timely questions about safety, protection, and democracy--and what one has to give up to achieve them._x000B__x000B_Ideal for students and scholars of Asian American and transnational literature, postcolonial history, women's studies, and many other interconnected disciplines, this special edition of The Scent of the Gods includes a contextualizing introduction, a chronology of historical events covered in the novel, and explanatory notes.

Scribes of Gastronomy Cover

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Scribes of Gastronomy

Representations of Food and Drink in Imperial Chinese Literature

edited by Isaac Yue and Siufu Tang

The culture of food and drink occupies a central role in the development of Chinese civilization, and the language of gastronomy has been a vital theme in a range of literary productions. From stanzas on food and wine in the Book of Odes to the articulation of refined dining in The Dream of the Red Chamber and Su Shi’s literary recipe for attaining culinary perfection, lavish textual representations help explain the unique appeal of food and its overwhelming cultural significance within Chinese society. These eight essays offer a colorful tour of Chinese gourmands whose work exemplifies the interrelationships of social and literary history surrounding food, with careful explication of such topics as the importance of tea in poetry, “the morality of drunkenness,” and food’s role in objectifying women.

Searching for Mr. Chin: Constructions of Nation and the Chinese in West Indian Literature Cover

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Searching for Mr. Chin: Constructions of Nation and the Chinese in West Indian Literature

What do twentieth-century fictional images of the Chinese reveal about the construction of nationhood in the former West Indian colonies? In her groundbreaking interdisciplinary work, Searching for Mr. Chin, Anne-Marie Lee-Loy seeks to map and understand a cultural process of identity formation: “Chineseness” in the West Indies.

Reading behind the stereotypical image of the Chinese in the West Indies, she compares fictional representations of Chinese characters in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana to reveal the social and racial hierarchies present in literature by popular authors such as V.S. Naipaul and Samuel Selvon, as well as lesser known writers and hard to access literary texts.

 

Using historical, discursive, and theoretical frameworks for her literary analysis, Lee-Loy shows how the unstable and ambiguous “belonging” afforded to this “middleman minority” speaks to the ways in which narrative boundaries of the nation are established. In addition to looking at how Chinese have been viewed as “others,” Lee-Loy examines self-representations of “Chineseness” and how they complicate national narratives of belonging.

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Service Economies

Militarism, Sex Work, and Migrant Labor in South Korea

Jin-kyung Lee

Service Economies presents an alternative narrative of South Korean modernity by examining how working-class labor occupies a central space in linking the United States and Asia to South Korea's changing global position from a U.S. neocolony to a subempire.

Making surprising and revelatory connections, Jin-kyung Lee analyzes South Korean military labor in the Vietnam War, domestic female sex workers, South Korean prostitution for U.S. troops, and immigrant/migrant labor from Asia in contemporary South Korea. Foregrounding gender, sexuality, and race, Lee reimagines the South Korean economic "miracle" as a global and regional articulation of industrial, military, and sexual proletarianization.

Lee not only addresses these under-studied labors individually but also integrates and unites them to reveal an alternative narrative of a changing South Korean working class whose heterogeneity is manifested in its objectification. Delving into literary and popular cultural sources as well as sociological work, Lee locates South Korean development in its military and economic interactions with the United States and other Asian nation-states, offering a unique perspective on how these practices have shaped and impacted U.S.-South Korea relations.

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The Shaman and the Heresiarch

A New Interpretation of the Li sao

The first book-length study in English of the Chinese classic, the Li sao (Encountering Sorrow). Includes translations of Li sao and the Nine Songs. The Li sao (also known as Encountering Sorrow), attributed to the poet-statesman Qu Yuan (4th–3rd century BCE), is one of cornerstones of the Chinese poetic tradition. It has long been studied as China’s first extended allegory in poetic form, yet most scholars agree that there is very little in the two-thousand-year-old tradition of commentary on it that convincingly explains its supernatural flights, its complex floral imagery, or the gender ambiguity of its primary poetic persona. The Shaman and the Heresiarch is the first book-length study of the Li sao in English, offering new translations of both the Li sao and the Nine Songs. The book traces the shortcomings of the earliest extant commentary on those texts, that of Wang Yi, back to the quasi-divinatory methods of the highly politicized tradition of Chinese classical hermeneutics in general, and the political machinations of a Han dynasty empress dowager in particular. It also offers an entirely new interpretation of the Li sao, one based not on Qu Yuan hagiography but on what late Warring States period artifacts and texts, including recently unearthed texts, teach us about the cultural context that produced the poem. In that light we see in the Li sao not only a reflection of the era of the great classical Chinese philosophers, but also the breakdown of the political-religious order of the ancient state of Chu.

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Shuntaro Tanikawa

The Art of Being Alone

Translated with Introduction by Takako U. Lento

This extensive selection of Tanikawa Shuntaro's poetry reflects the full depth and breadth of his work, from his appearance as a fresh new voice to the mastery of his later poetry. It traces his artistic development and his shift in focus from man's cosmic destiny to the pathos of everyday life and a more internalized struggle with the nature of human expression. Lovers of poetry will find the experience exhilarating. The only such collection in English, this volume will prove indispensable to students and scholars of Japanese literature, as it opens a valuable new perspective on postware Japanese literature. The Introduction clarifies the social and artistic background of Tanikawa's extraordinary work and career, illuminating major themes as his poetry evolves over time.

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Significant Other

Staging the American in China

Claire Conceison

Chinese views of the United States have shifted dramatically since the 1980s, with changes in foreign relations, increased travel of Chinese citizens to the U.S., and wide circulation of American popular culture in China. Significant Other explores representations of Americans that emerged onstage in China between 1987 and 2002 and considers how they function as racial and cultural stereotypes, political strategy, and artistic innovation. Based on fieldwork in Beijing and Shanghai, it offers a unique view of contemporary Mainland Chinese spoken drama from the perspective of a Western academic who is both a Chinese studies scholar and a theatre practitioner. Claire Conceison’s close readings of recent plays take into account not only the texts of the plays themselves and other primary sources, but also production contexts, creative origins, artistic collaboration, and audience reception. Identifying the American as China’s "significant Other," Conceison introduces the complex cultural relationship between China and the United States, situating it in both the long history of Sino-Western relations and the present dynamics of post-colonialism. She then examines the emergent discourse of Occidentalism, tracing its origins and recent circulation and repositioning it as a discursive strategy to analyze appearances of Americans on the Chinese stage. Conceison maintains that Chinese staging of American characters—often played by local actors made up and costumed as Americans, and more recently played by foreigners themselves—reveals cultural norms and attitudes regarding the United States, reflects Sino-American political relations, articulates Chinese national and cultural identity, and signifies innovation in spoken drama as an art form.

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Single Sickness and Other Stories by Masuda Mizuko

Translated by Lynne Kutsukake

Single Sickness and Other Stories by Masuda Mizuko opens a window onto the intriguing fictional world of award-winning author Masuda Mizuko. Masuda explores themes of female subjectivity and biology, selfhood and autonomy, loneliness and desire, and the deep tensions inherent in female-male relations. The seven stories in this volume tap into a powerful undercurrent of disquiet pervading contemporary urban life. Masuda subtly evokes an air of menace underlying the mundane and a whiff of danger in the domestic.

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Situated Testimonies

Dread and Enchantment in an Indonesian Literary Archive

Laurie J. Sears

“This is a remarkable book in the way it attempts to tease out and crash through the barriers of self-restricting and self-restraining area studies. Situated Testimonies poses a challenge to Indonesianists as well as to many beyond the field. It is an adventure embarked upon with the help of Freud, Lacan, and other friends and foes. Sears demonstrates both the benefits and tribulations of such an endeavor. At its best, her book attains an impressive simplicity as it uncovers a sense of the world in both its subjects—the colonial and postcolonial literary figures—and its author as she thinks and writes about them.” —Rudolf Mrazek, University of Michigan

“In her innovative and sophisticated new book, Laurie Sears re-writes portions of the literary history of Indonesia over a sweep of many decades. Sears time-travels across the colonial and postcolonial divide, letting theory, translation, anxiety, and memory function as her airplane. It is an interesting and illuminating ride that we get to take with her.” —Eric Tagliacozzo, Cornell University

The Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer made a distinction between a “downstream” literary reality and an “upstream” historical reality. Pramoedya suggested that literature has an effect on the upstream flow of history and that it can in fact change history. In Situated Testimonies Laurie Sears illuminates this process by considering a selection of Dutch Indies and Indonesian literary works that span the twentieth century and beyond and by showing how authors like Louis Couperus and Maria Dermoût help retell and remodel history.

Sears sees certain literary works as “situated testimonies,” bringing ineffable experiences of trauma into narrative form and preserving something of the dread and enchantment that animated the past. These literary works offer a method of reading the emotional traces that historians may fail to witness or record—traces that elude archival constructions where political factors or colonial conditions have influenced processes of what is preserved and how it is shaped. Sears’ use of Donna Haraway’s notion of “situatedness” reiterates the idea that all of us speak from somewhere. Testimony, especially eyewitness testimony, is a gold standard in historical methodology, and the authors of literary works are eyewitnesses of their time. But the works of authors like Tirto Adhi Soerjo and Soewarsih Djojopoespito are first of all written as literature, and literary or stylistic devices cannot be ignored.

Sears finds substantial evidence of the movement of psychoanalytic theories between Europe and the Indies/Indonesia throughout the twentieth century. She concludes that far from being only a Jewish or European discourse, psychoanalysis is a transnational discourse of desire that has influenced Indies and Indonesian writers for more than a century. Psychoanalytic ideas, and the suggestion by French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche and Indonesian author Ayu Utami that memories, like literature, can move us back and forth in time, have inspired Sears’ thinking about historical archives, literature, and trauma.

Soekarno’s words haunt this book as he haunts Indonesia’s past. Situated Testimonies rewrites portions of the literary and social history of Indonesia over a sweep of many decades. Historians, scholars of literary theory, and Indonesianists will all be interested in the book’s insights on how colonial and postcolonial novels of the Indies and Indonesia illuminate nationalist narratives and imperial histories.

Laurie J. Sears is professor of history at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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Snakes' Legs

Sequels, Continuations, Rewritings, and Chinese Fiction

Martin W. Huang

Snakes' Legs examines sequels (xushu), a common but long-neglected literary phenomenon in traditional China. What prompted writers to produce sequels despite their poor reputation as a genre? What motivated readers to read them? How should we characterize the nature of the relationship between sequels and rewritings? Contributors to this volume illuminate these and other questions, and the collection as a whole offers a comprehensive consideration of this vigorous genre while suggesting fascinating new directions for research. Xushu as a discursive practice reinforces the paradox that innovation is impossible without imitation. It presents us with fertile ground for studying the intricate ties that bind the writer and reader of traditional Chinese fiction: the writer of xushu is always self-consciously assuming the dual role of author and reader and in the writing process must consider both the work in progress as well as its precursor(s). Snakes' Legs contains detailed discussions of some representative xushu works from the late Ming and Qing periods, many of which have received little scholarly attention. It will shed light on the development of Chinese fiction and the various textual practices in traditional China as well as account for the genre’s continuing vitality in modern times.

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