Korean-American Literature as Autobiographical Metafiction: Focusing on the Protagonist's "Writer" Identity in East Goes West, Dictee, and Native Speaker
This dissertation employs "metafiction" as a perspective to reread Asian-American texts across the realist-postmodern divide, exploring subversive junctions the texts in question betray. This dissertation rereads three Korean-American literary texts with autobiographical or autofictional elements as a complementary move to critical debates between Lisa Lowe and Jinqi Ling on realism and postmodernism in Asian-American literature. Considering the works are autobiographical or autofictional, I read each of the works as a metafiction in which a writer (author) writes about a writer (protagonist) writing a work (text) a reader reads now. In this never-ending self-reflexive structure, I observe some points where an authorial self encounters /conflicts with fictional self, and explore how their encounter /conflict creates a rupture on the ideologically defined smooth surface of Asian-American "writer" identity, which has been often overshadowed by their Asian American identity.
In Chapter 1, my analysis revolves around how Younghill Kang, the author, (de)constructs Chungpa Han, the protagonist of East Goes West, as an Eastern scholar in the West. The protagonist/author was wasted, I argue, as a tool for the imperial U.S. and finally trapped into otherizing network of discrimination. I intend to reveal awkward but brave moments when the author gazes at the deconstruction of the narratorial self in this autobiographical novel. In Chapter 2, my argument is that Theresa Hak Kyung Cha successfully constructs herself as a female Korean-American writer through Dictee. Cha makes, I analyze, an "inventory of traces" to borrow Antonio Gramsci's concept in order to understand her paradoxical existence. The narrator is reborn as a diseuse in a circular, womblike, space which she generates by curving linearly progressing history. In Chapter 3, the main argument is that Henry, the protagonist of Native Speaker, is transformed from a technical writer, who is faithful to a marginal role a dominant society posits, to an "ethical writer" who feels responsible and tries to take responsibility for what he writes. In this autofiction, I explore how Lee, the authorial self, daringly exposes himself through Henry, and takes advantage of metafictional apparatuses to involve readers in the transformative process.
School:University of Cincinnati
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:korean american literature autobiographic metafiction identity east goes west dictee native speaker
Date of Publication:01/01/2008