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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Embracing the Angel: Reading Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s Hong Kong Poetry with Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition


In 1999, after having moved to America for nearly thirty years, Chinese Malaysian poet and scholar Shirley Geok-lin Lim began her sojourn in Hong Kong. In addition to being a research professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Lim has been accepting invitations to teach at the University of Hong Kong and the City University of Hong Kong as chair professor or writer-in-residence for almost twenty years, and has published several collections of poetry in and about Hong Kong. This paper analyzes Shirley Lim’s Embracing the Angel: Hong Kong Poems, a poetry collection inspired by the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, 2014. The major issues for discussion include: 1) how Hong Kong is under the shadow of Chinese culture and hegemony; 2) how Hong Kong has been striving for democracy and freedom after the Handover; and 3) how literature enacts to construct history and authorize hope. Similar to college students who have adopted the Umbrella Movement as their “space of appearance” (in Hannah Arendt’s term) for the ideal of democracy, Lim published Embracing the Angel as her “space of appearance” to offer support and indicate hope for Hong Kong.

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