Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee (1982) explores what it really means to “forget” and “re member” historical memories and how this process of unlearning relocates the first- and second-generation Asian American speakers in the realm of language. Cha’s act of forgetting and re membering is not so much a psychological process as it is a physical and affective process of becoming. Through the intimacy between Cha’s half-autobiographical speaker’s sense of nation, body, and innovative language, Dictee examines how her Korean mother tongue, which once shaped the former generation’s presumed homogeneous historical/national memories, comes to enunciate alternative values and meanings in her more specific and concrete cultural realities. I first consider how the nation’s postcolonial situation after the Korean War engendered such a rigid and exclusionary form of national identity. The strict nationalist policies enacted in the 1960s and onward became another repressive ideology of dominance in which the voices of Cha’s in-between subjects could not be heard. In the second half of the article, I analyze how Dictee actively incorporates ideas of nationality, history, and identity into the Korean American speaker’s physical and innovative linguistic experimentations. Although the meanings that emerge from Cha’s affect-driven language appear to be personal and not shared or attributed to any kind of communal behavior, Dictee not only undermines essentialized cultural and national identities but cultivates more specific Korean or Korean American voices, histories, and perspectives. In particular, this essay focuses on Cha’s politics of language in Dictee. Following the theoretical leads of Juliana Spahr, Deborah M. Mix, Lisa Lowe, and Gilles Deleuze, I explore how Dictee’s experimental language becomes a form of survival for her in-between subjects and allows them to have more active voices and find new meanings of home, history, and family in the daily acts of forgetting and re membering.


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pp. 79-104
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