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City University of Hong Kong
Speaking Otherwise: Feminist Refusal, Silence, and Transnational Trauma in Chang-Rae Lee’s A Gesture Life

The assertion of national powers and enforcement of authority in wartime are often inscribed through the enactment of sexual violence on women’s bodies. This talk will read Korean American writer Chang-Rae Lee’s A Gesture Life, which broaches the issue of military “comfort women” —women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during WWII— and their representation (or lack thereof) in Japanese (and global) memory. Analyzing the novel alongside theorists such as Barbara Johnson and Saidiya Hartman, this talk examines the occlusion of the female voice to consider the impossibility of representation and the disingenuousness of discourse, in order to offer a way of recuperating a silenced voice. In my larger project, I draw attention to the figures of female suffering that lie at the center of certain transnational novels to show how these novels are powerful for their ability to make this pain into an allegory for other forms of historical violence while maintaining a feminist focus on the issue of misogyny.


Jerrine Tan was born and raised in Singapore. She received her BA in English and Economics from UC Berkeley and her MA and PhD in English from Brown University. She is currently an assistant professor at City University Hong Kong and previously taught Global Anglophone Literature in the English department at Mount Holyoke College. Her research interests include Transnational Asian Literature and Film, Contemporary Fiction, 20th century American Literature, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Film. Her international approach to research has been supported by various international fellowships, including the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), the Japan Foundation, Brown University, and Fudan University. Her academic essays have been published or are forthcoming in Modern Fiction Studies, Wasafiri, and the Cambridge Companion to Kazuo Ishiguro. Her essays have also been featured on popular platforms such as Literary Hub, WIRED, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Asian American Writers' Workshop.

Zoom Details

Zoom link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/94328637377?pwd=cnY0eVpaNm5DRmlFaE1UZkRDaitGdz09

Meeting ID: 943 2863 7377
Password: 735745

In view of the current pandemic situation, all face-to-face events or activities shall be suspended in accordance to the notice issued by Task Force. As a matter of fact, the upcoming seminar will be shifted from hybrid mode to online mode only.