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Beyond K's Specter: Chang-rae Lee’s A Gesture Life, Comfort Women Testimonies, and Asian American Transnational Aesthetics

  • Author(s): Kong, Belinda
  • et al.
Abstract

This essay argues that Chang-rae Lee’s novel A Gesture Life exemplifies both the conceptual gains and the potential pitfalls of current Asian American literature’s transnationalism. The first section of the essay discusses the interlocking of psychoanalytic theory and political philosophy, specifically Freud’s uncanny and Arendt’s banality of evil, in Lee’s portrait of the psychology of criminal repression. The second section juxtaposes Lee’s novel against real-life comfort women’s survivor testimonies to probe broader questions of historical memory, politicized historiography, and the modes of circulation and authority in contemporary international comfort women discourse. The final section, which recontextualizes Lee’s novel within current debates in Asian and Asian American Studies, argues against a paradigm of alterity vis-à-vis the comfort women and proposes instead a transnational aesthetic premised on the human.

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