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Lê Thị Huệ: Writing between Exilic Homelessness and Situated Nomadism


Over the past three decades, more than 300 Vietnamese American authors have produced at least 550 novels, 200 collections of short stories and poetry in addition to over 100 volumes of informal reflective and formal commentary essays in their native language. Nonetheless, a majority of this literature remains in utter obscurity, both within and beyond the borders of Vietnamese America. My dissertation focuses on the body of work of the feminist writer Lê Thị Huệ whose expansive breadth and constantly evolving aesthetics render her an appropriate representative and a singular phenomenon among her contemporaries in the Vietnamese diaspora. I propose the double concept exilic homelessness and situated nomadism as the theoretical framework to read Lê's body of work and as a means through which to understand Lê's ethics and aesthetics. I demonstrate that, if multiple historical displacements underlie Lê's experience as a refugee, woman, and writer, exilic homelessness and situated nomadism reveal the vicissitudes of Lê's subjectivity as an exile, feminist, and Asian American cyborg and cultural producer. Combining the ethico-critical force of poststructuralist theories (including nomadology, cyborg theory, and ecriture feminine) and politico-aesthetic strength of critical theories (including women-of-color feminism and critical denationalization), I demonstrate how Lê's work offers a meaningful opportunity to re-imagine Asian American subjectivity and politics of resistance in the contemporary diasporic moment. Ultimately I reveal how reading Lê's work requires a critical paradigm that incorporates both indigenizing and diasporic modes of Asian American subjectivity and that, not only is such paradigm theoretically and politically productive, it is also desirable.

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