Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Familial Grotesque in the Poetry of Shirley Geok-lin Lim


Framing the representation of the family in Shirley Lim’s poetry against the concept of the grotesque, this essay aims to demonstrate how the aesthetic category is arguably enlisted as a symbol referring to the trope – or more accurately, with particular members of the family– in order to mount a criticism against it, or less directly, the Confucian, male-biased symbolic order that underscores it. That the maternal-figure is most often transfigured as a grotesque embodiment in Lim’s poems is telling in its implication of the poet’s own ambivalent feelings towards her own mother whom she recognizes as a woman who illustrates empowering individualism but also reprehensibility. As such, while some of her poems express affirmation of the grotesque’s capacity for transgressing ideological borders and confusing distinctions, others are less celebratory of the concept, which they evoke explicitly to clarify the family’s monstrous dimensions.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View