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How We Might Relate Anew with History: The Quivering Affects of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee

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Authors
Lee, Sunbinn
Issue Date
2021-09-01
Publisher
서울대학교 인문대학 영어영문학과
Citation
영학논집, Vol.41 No., pp. 25-58
Keywords
historyaffectmelancholiasoundbodyechorelationalityTheresa Hak Kyung ChaDictee
Abstract
This paper aims to read Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee as a project of affective relationality with traumatic history. The notion of history as writing, as text, and as discursive formation has preoccupied critics of Dictee, beginning with ‘what’ is represented in the text (Korean history) and ‘who’ represents it (a Korean-American woman). Dictee’s fragmented form has especially attracted poststructuralist readings that concentrate on identifying the figure of the “diseuse,” the speaker and echo-chamber for disjointed voices of the past. However, less attention has been given to the very desire that propels the diseuse to speak. This paper reads Dictee as a project of relationality, rather than a study in subjectivity. By reinvesting moments of historical trauma with melancholic affect, Dictee explores how we shape connective tissues with a fragmented past, beginning from colonial displacement and exile to neocolonial division and strife. First, I examine how Dictee’s melancholic temporality, disrupts the linear figuration of time and brings lost voices into an enun-ciative now by the very act of speaking. Second, I note that this mode of relating to the past is physical as well as psychic. The diseuse’s bodily effort to produce speech presents a model of history as sensuous, affective knowledge. In this sense, Dictee literalizes Brian Massumi’s seminal definition of affect as the reverberating motion of the body that has been struck or touched, yet also shows how the body is not given beforehand, but itself is materialized through this effort for relationality. Finally, I examine how the fragments of Dictee are interlaced with what I term a quivering affect that oscillates between hesitance and longing. Dictee recognizes that the moment of original touch cannot be restored, nor a euphoric reunion possible. This attests to the ethical stakes of Cha’s history project: not to easily recuperate or represent a lost origin, but to linger upon the (im)possibility of touching the past. Merging the erotic yearning for physical touch and the ethical reserve of hesitation, quivering resonance is literalized through recurring motifs of echoes, stains, and heat. These sensory forms reverberate, flow, and radiate through temporal and material borders without purporting to break them down easily, stringing together fragmented traces of history and opening a mode of affective relation with them. I end with the suggestion that Cha’s project of a quivering, affective mode of relation to history can also be the basis of an emergent subjectivity. Dictee reconfigures the his-toricizing subject, not through an essentialized notion of nation or race, nor wholly through discursive formation, but as an embodied figure that longs and labors to reconnect with forgotten moments of history.
Language
English
URI
https://hdl.handle.net/10371/176802
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College of Humanities (인문대학)English Language and Literature (영어영문학과)영학논집(English Studies)영학논집(English Studies) No.41 (2021)
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