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Anglophone Southeast Asian Literature and Transnational Aesthetics

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  • UserKelly Yin Nga Tse – DPhil Candidate, Faculty of English, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford
  • ClockFriday 24 February 2017, 16:20-16:30
  • HouseLee Hall, Wolfson College Cambridge.

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This paper examines the constitution of a transnational aesthetics in contemporary Anglophone Southeast Asian literature. In particular, it focuses on the Malaysian writer, Tan Twan Eng’s novel, The Gift of Rain (2007) as a representative Southeast Asian text that seeks to transcend the category of the nation. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the novel represents not only a product of the author’s transnational trajectory, but also a postcolonial reconstitution of the past as transnational history. Centrally, Tan’s historical narrative follows its half-Chinese and half-British protagonist, Philip Hutton, as he recounts his personal history before and during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, then a British colony. The past that Philip recalls pertains chiefly to his queer relationship with his Japanese master, Hayato Endo, a secret agent who instructs teenage Philip in the Japanese martial art of aikido prior to and during the Occupation in the early 1940s. In critically reading The Gift of Rain, this paper argues that Tan’s dramatization of Japanese imperialism in Malaya contests an easily sanctioned version of history by adopting a transnational mode of address. In so doing, he envisions cross-cultural connections for post-conflict communities in a global context.

This talk is part of the Wolfson Research Event 2017 series.

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