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Theorizing in Narrative Form': Premonitions of Orientalism and Racist Love in Bing Xin's 'The Photograph'


This article supports Barbara Christian’s observation that theoretical insights can be directly manifested in literary texts. I demonstrate how Bing Xin’s story “The Photograph” (1934) anticipates ideas later articulated by postcolonialist and Asian American literary critics such as Edward Said, Frank Chin, Rey Chow, and Arif Dirlik. The narrative interweaves three strands of Orientalism — missionary denigration of the Chinese as inferior heathens, American construct of the Asian as the silent model (minority), and Chinese complicity in the enactment of the stereotype. I argue that this transnational tale dissolves the boundaries of Chinese, Chinese American, and postcolonialist studies; interrogates both American imperialist assumptions and Chinese traditional values; and offers caveats against essentialist approaches to transracial adoption.

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