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Wounded Language/Time: History, the Novel, and the Filipino-American Relation

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Wounded Language/Time: History, the Novel, and the Filipino-American Relation studies the traumatic intertwining of Filipino and American histories and the resurfacing of this relation in contemporary novels. In analyses of Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet, Tony Perez’s Cubao-Kalaw Kalaw-Cubao, Edgar Calabia Samar’s Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog, and Gerald Vizenor’s The Heirs of Columbus, I explore how literature functions as the working through of US-Philippines relations, which are founded on the Philippine-American War, the monumentally violent and monumentally forgotten event that led to the US colonization of the Philippines. I argue that the Filipino-American relation is traumatic, based on an overwhelming event only subsequently processed that renders relation and temporality queer. Linking Filipino American studies to trauma, race, and sexuality studies while tracing trauma theory back to psychoanalysis and deconstruction, I trace the history of this relation in way that is consistent with, while also queering, trauma. I provide a spectral and contrapuntal genealogy of the Philippine-American War that shows how history on the part of both the US and the Philippines is, symptomatic of trauma, defined by forgetting and repetition. I then follow these traumatic symptoms through the other means by which the war continues, in Filipino and American novels, creative narratives attached to the intertwined identities and the nation, the historical form at stake in the imperial dynamic that defines the Filipino-American relation, comparison between the two traditions allowing clarification of each other and of the history that binds them. Focusing on the repetition of history through its forgetting, this screening leading to experimentation in literature through which writing doubles, thereby processing, trauma and the reclamation of new/native “failures” that deconstruct Western ontology, I show how Filipino and American novels are sublimations of history in which trauma manifests and is processed in another form after some delay. Providing a theoretical frame for Filipino American studies and the study of American with other literatures and of the Filipino as part of new American studies, the dissertation links the metropolitan and colonial constituents of empire through trauma to pursue humanistic inquiry into power, desire, language, identity, temporality, and justice.

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