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Reviewed by:
  • Intimate Empire: Collaboration and Colonial Modernity in Korea and Japan by Nayoung Aimee Kwon, and: Translingual Narration: Colonial and Postcolonial Taiwanese Fiction and Film by Bert Mittchell Scruggs
  • Kate McDonald
Intimate Empire: Collaboration and Colonial Modernity in Korea and Japan. By nayoung aimee kwon. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 277 pp. $94.95 (hardcover); $25.95 (paper).
Translingual Narration: Colonial and Postcolonial Taiwanese Fiction and Film. By bert mittchell scruggs. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2015. 216 pp. $65.00 (hardcover).

It is by now commonplace to assert that national literary canons took shape in the context of colonialism and its afterlives. Colonial landscapes provided rich terrain for metropolitan authors; novelists dissected, sometimes obliquely, the themes of racial and class difference that the circulation of people between metropole and colony brought to the fore; and tropes of colonial space—"the Frontier," "the Orient," and "the Tropics"—set the frame for what we now regard as major works of nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction. In Intimate Empire: Collaboration and Colonial Modernity in Korea and Japan and Translingual Narration: Colonial and Postcolonial Taiwanese Fiction and Film, Nayoung Aimee Kwon and Bert Mittchell Scruggs take us to the oft-neglected other half of this relationship. Exploring the experiences of colonized writers in the colonial era and their troubled canonization in the postcolonial era, Kwon and Scruggs illuminate the complex acts of forgetting, remembering, and, in some cases, rewriting, that shaped the production of "Korean" and "Taiwanese" literature in the twentieth century.

Twentieth-century imperialism intertwined colonialism with nationalism, leaving the boundaries between empire and nation ambiguous and the place of colonized subjects liminal. The Japanese Empire was no different. Japanese discourse positioned the Japanese Empire as a "civilized," European-style empire and as a bulwark against Western imperialism in Asia. Colonial policy sought to "civilize" colonized subjects through Japanese-language education, social and political reforms, and the introduction of capitalism. At the same time they professed the "equality of all subjects under the emperor's gaze." [End Page 245] Metropolitan cultural producers encouraged the "assimilation" of colonized writers into the imperial literary marketplace. They also engaged in a robust practice of differentiation in order to maintain the metropole as the empire's cultural and linguistic center.

As Kwon and Scruggs show, colonized authors turned the fuzzy boundary between metropole and colony into a generative theme. For Kwon, colonial modernity was a "conundrum" that left colonized cultural producers "perched between two different but uncannily parallel scenes that vacillated between inclusion and exclusion, between recognition and alienation, from the colonial to the postcolonial" (p. 200). Scruggs similarly finds that colonized Taiwanese writers worked with an "instability and ambivalence" of identity (p. 35). Moreover, as both books argue, the problem of representation extended beyond the colonial era. Post-imperial formations of "Taiwanese" and "Korean" literature divide colonial-era productions into works of "collaboration" and "resistance." Yet, as Kwon and Scruggs show, this binary formation reflects the politics of postcolonial nation-building more than it does the content, form, or history of Taiwanese and Korean literature under Japanese colonial rule.

In their analyses of the literature of the colonized in the Japanese Empire, Intimate Empire and Translingual Narration touch on similar themes: the colonial and postcolonial politics of translation and canonization; language and the problem of representation; and the conflict between what Scruggs calls "locative identity" (the identity one embraces based on one's location—be it "urban" or "Taiwanese" or "Japanese") and "ethnic identity" (the identity that one adopts, or has put upon them, based on ethnicity). Translingual Narration focuses on literature written by Taiwanese Chinese authors and, in one chapter, postcolonial Taiwanese films. Through close readings and insightful comparative analyses, Scruggs unravels the politics that shaped the translation of literary works from Japanese to Chinese and the cinematic representation of the colonial period in the postcolonial era. Intimate Empire examines Japanese-language works by Korean authors, neatly toggling between their production and reception in the colonial era, critical analyses of the narrative subject that each portrays, and critiques of the postcolonial recasting of these works as examples of either collaboration or resistance. The books bring to light writings that have not been...


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pp. 245-249
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