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Trans-spatiality as the horizon of the coming community: Ethico-ontology and aesthetics in Asian immigrant literature

Dae-Joong Kim, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study centers on the potential scope and significance of trans-spatiality as a new literary concept. I employ the concept of trans-spatiality as a means of understanding Asian immigrants' transnational experiences as represented by Asian immigrant writers in the Anglophone world. Trans-spatiality is a grounding term and methodological orientation, and its scope is relational and appositional. Thus, previous studies such as postcolonialism, cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, diaspora studies, and globalization are related to trans-spatiality, but, in this dissertation, I strictly limit its use to an ethico-ontological and aesthetic understanding of Asian immigrant writers' literary works. For this methodology, I explore and analyze various Western philosophers' theories, especially Giorgio Agamben's ethico-ontology. Also, I employ Édouard Glissant's poetics of relation and commonplace (lieux communs) as well as Walter Benjamin's constellation to transit this theoretical exploration to literary studies. In chapter one of my study, which follows a brief preface, I address Asian immigrants' negative (animalized or Otherized) humanities by analyzing two Asian American poets' poems and Glissant's poem alongside a theoretical critique of Heidegger's Western-oriented ontology and ethics. In chapters two and three, I analyze Chang Rae Lee's Native Speaker and Joy Kogawa's Obasan to discuss Lee's trans-spatial beings in terms of coming community and form-of-life, and Kogawa's aesthetic testimony of Japanese Canadians' internment during WWII via artistic signs. The fourth chapter shifts away from trans-spatiality in America-centered and anthropocentric narratives to a clone-centered science fiction and the critical space created by Kazuo Ishiguro, an Asian English novelist. This chapter ends with aesthetic and ethical inquiries into the clone as artist as a cornerstone of the relations between life and art. In the last chapter, I take on the topic of the relations between life and art via an overarching image of a bowl with the void in the center as a form of constellation in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictée. I conclude this dissertation with a brief analysis of my own trans-spatial teaching experience.

Subject Area

Modern literature|Asian American Studies|American literature

Recommended Citation

Kim, Dae-Joong, "Trans-spatiality as the horizon of the coming community: Ethico-ontology and aesthetics in Asian immigrant literature" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3516980.