Founded In    1976
Published   semiannually
Language(s)   English
     

Fields of Interest

 

literary and cultural studies

     
ISSN   1729-6897
     
Editorial Board

EDITOR    
Tsu-Chung Su

EDITORIAL BOARD
Chun-yen Jo Chen
Wei-Cheng Chu
Iping Liang
Pin-chia Feng
Amie Parry
Frank W. Stevenson
Jung Su
Chih-ming Wang

Submission Guidelines and Editorial Policies

1.        Manuscripts should be submitted in English. Please send the manuscript, an abstract, a list of keywords, and a vita as Word-attachments to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Alternatively, please mail us two hard copies and an IBM-compatible diskette copy. Concentric will acknowledge receipt of the submission but will not return it after review.

2.        Manuscripts should be prepared according to the latest edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Except for footnotes in single space, manuscripts must be double-spaced, typeset in 12-point Times New Roman.

3.        To facilitate the Journal’s anonymous refereeing process, there must be no indication of personal identity or institutional affiliation in the manuscript proper. The name and institution of the author should appear on a separate title page or in the vita. The author may cite his/her previous works, but only in the third person.

4.        The Journal will not consider for publication manuscripts being simultaneously submitted elsewhere.

5.        If the paper has been published or submitted elsewhere in a language other than English, please make available two copies of the non-English version. Concentric may not consider submissions already available in other languages.

6.        One copy of the Journal and fifteen off-prints of the article will be provided to the author(s) on publication.

7.        It is the Journal’s policy to require assignment of copyrights form by all authors.

     
Mailing Address
     

Concentric Editor
Department of English,
National Taiwan Normal University
162 Hoping East Rd.
Section 1, Taipei 10610
Taiwan, ROC
Phone 886-2-23636143
Fax 886-2-23634793
Email concentric.lit@deps.ntnu.edu.tw

Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies

Emerging as one of the best journals of its kind produced outside of West, Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies is, in the words of Professor Ronald Bogue, “one of the most vibrant and innovative vehicles of transcultural exchange active today.” Its history traces back to 1976 when the journal was published as a joint study of the English language and literature. Starting from 1999, it has become a medium devoted to exclusively literary and cultural studies. It is now published biannually in March and September by Bookman Books, Ltd. for the Department of English, National Taiwan Normal University, in Taipei, Taiwan. A peer-reviewed journal, Concentric is dedicated to offering innovative perspectives on literary and cultural issues, as well as to initiating the transcultural exchange of ideas. While foregrounding Asian—and particularly Taiwanese—points of view, Concentric encourages all perspectives and approaches including comparative and interdisciplinary ones, and welcomes original contributions from diverse national and cultural backgrounds, which address any of the many dimensions of literatures and cultures. Concentric is indexed in the MLA International Bibliography; the Taiwan Humanities Citation Index (THCI); and in PerioPath: An Index to Chinese Periodical Literature.

 

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M, Volume 36, Number 2

Introduction: Things Beginning with the Letter “M”


Moral Economy and the Politics of Food Riots in Coriolanus


Food riots in the Elizabethan-Jacobean period were an explosive expression of discontent over the threat of food scarcity and starvation. They were ritualistic acts used by the commoners to compel the authorities to meet the standards of moral economy and to respect the plebeians' legitimate right to eat. In Coriolanus, Shakespeare highlights contemporary Jacobean food riots by rewriting and transferring the belly fable incident of usury riots into food riots and by repetitively referring to famine, hunger, and food hoarding in the riot scenes. Like Shakespeare's contemporary food rioters, the mobs in Coriolanus do not rise up to subvert the established social order; they revolt in order to alert the authorities that their grievances must be heard and respected. By portraying the crowd as exceptionally well-organized, the playwright transforms the play into a social critique to encourage his audience to think about the potential danger of popular disruptions and to urge the authorities to contemplate the consequences of ignoring the popular voice. Through this critique, the dramatist also manages to display how hunger can turn into a formidably collective power that poses a serious threat to the ruling authorities.

Mark Twain’s Racial Ideologies and His Portrayal of the Chinese


Although Mark Twain's depictions of the Chinese are not always free from contemporary racial stereotypes, they are more sympathetic than what was typically portrayed in the popular media. In "Disgraceful Persecution of a Boy," Twain unfolds his antipathy towards the discriminatory treatment the Chinese suffered. In "John Chinaman in New York," the narrator pities the "friendless Mongol," but finally finds himself only able to understand the Chinese as superficial stereotypes. In "Goldsmith's Friend Abroad Again," through the narrator's initial ironical statements and later sufferings and disillusionment, Twain satirizes American racist attitudes against the Chinese. In Roughing It, Twain characterizes the Chinese with depth and humanity; despite ill treatment from lower-class whites, the Chinese in the portrait Twain paints are hard-working, patient, and benevolent to American society. Ah Sin vindicates the Chinese by presenting a Chinese laundryman who outsmarts most of the white characters. Twain's anti-racism fueled his powerful anti-imperial writings later in his life, in which his humanitarian sentiments and sense of moral righteousness became more prominent in expressing sympathy for oppressed groups, including the Chinese, and insisting on racial tolerance. As such, when Twain observed the Chinese, he was in fact examining the American character in comparison with his ideal vision of the U.S. as a nation that represented the forces of social justice and liberalism.

Ethics of Reading and Writing: Self, Truth and Responsibility in Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time


Based on an ethics of reading and writing, this essay aims to study Proust's novel in terms of his treatment of the notion of self and truth associated with the attempt to come to terms with the other, and the ethical contributions of his work to the articulation of responsibility in modernity's predicament. Along with his problematization of the self, Proust draws our attention to his neurotic preoccupation with the fragility of the truth and the ethical problem of insular subjectivity. While his work has thus often been accused of implicated in or leading to subjectivism, relativism, or even nihilism, this essay argues that the ethical value of Proust's text does not derive so much from particular moral messages it articulates as from the narrative and stylistic techniques it employs and its concern with reading and writing as ethically relevant. Based as it is on an excess of signification and an anxiety in representation, Proust's work provides an alterity-oriented ethics of reading and writing, which necessitates a rethinking of the essence of self, truth and responsibility in Proust's work.

Malabou, Plasticity, and the Sculpturing of the Self


In What Shall We Do With Our Brain? (2004), French philosopher Catherine Malabou returns to the traditional philosophical mind-body problem (we do not experience our mind as a "brain") and introduces the concept of a difference or "split" between our brain as a hard material substance and our consciousness of the brain as a non-identity. Malabou speaks of the brain's plasticity, a term which stands between (as a kind of deconstructive "indecidable") flexibility and rigidity, suppleness and solidity, fixedness and transformability, identity and modifiability, determination and freedom. This means seeing the brain no longer as the "center" and "sovereign power" of the body -- as it has been seen for centuries, at least in the West -- but as itself a locus and process of self-sculpting (self-forming) and transdifferentiation, as being very closely interconnected with the rest of the body. Malabou also speaks of our own potential to sculpt or "re-fashion" ourselves, and (by further extension) to re-form our society through trans-differentiating into new and potentially freer, more open and more democratic socio-political forms. In this bold project Malabou still remains close to her Hegelian roots, and she is also influenced by Merleau-Ponty's notion of the body-subject and Nancy's alter-mondialisation (other-worlding) as an alternative to globalization.

Mastery and Mock Dialectic in Thomas Bernhard’s Correction


A central conflict in Thomas Bernhard's novel Correction (Korrektur) concerns the relation between the narrator and his deceased friend, Roithamer, for whom the narrator serves as literary executor. Although Roithamer is dead, the two men nonetheless appear to enter a conflictive struggle involving domination and mastery since the narrator understands Roithamer's bequest as an aggressive gesture intended to destroy him. Though the general form of the contest resembles the Hegelian master-slave dialectic, the dialectic is subjected to two types of critique. The first critical point concerns the theatricalization or staging of conflict in Höller's garret, the spatial focus of the novel; the second is connected to identity and the recuperation of meaning vis-à-vis correction in the special sense of the novel's title. Although the notion of dialectic as a process initiated by non-identity is already present in the special meaning of correction, by which concepts are ruthlessly subjected to negations of negations, correction also refers to suicide -- Roithamer "corrects" himself out of existence. In this sense of correction, the struggle does indeed respond to internal contradiction but cannot be recuperated in sublation; the result is more akin to abstract negation, annihilation, and therefore an attack on the very conditions which make meaning possible. The question remains whether the narrator is compelled to function slavishly by extending recognition to Roithamer through his labor, or whether he can evade both the "restricted economy" of Hegelian negation without succumbing to Roithamer's extreme act of self-destruction. Several critics (Adorno, Deleuze, and Derrida) point the way through these two applications of Hegel -- first, in helping to show how what is in fact happening, in the potential discursive reduction of Roithamer through the labor of the narrator, is either mock-dialectic or formal liquidation and second, in pointing up the significance of the narrator's laughter.

Metamorphosis and the Genesis of Xenos: Becoming-Other and Sexual Politics in Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis Trilogy


In the Xenogenesis Trilogy (1987-89), Octavia Butler recounts the recolonization of earth by human-alien hybrids following a catastrophic nuclear war. Although Butler never read the works of Deleuze and Guattari, her trilogy provides apt illustrations of Deleuze-Guattari's concept of "becoming." Diverse forms of becoming -- becoming-woman, becoming-child, becoming-animal, becoming-molecular, and becoming-imperceptible -- characterize various elements of Butler's plot, and all these becomings have ramifications in the domain of gender politics. Deleuze-Guattari valorize becoming as a mode of metamorphic invention, and they situate it within a general ontology of affective intensities, whereby human sexuality is at once fully sociohistorical and cosmic. Butler, too, imagines a world of sociohistorical and cosmic intensities, and she grants becoming a privileged role in creating new possibilities for future life. Yet she also envisions in alternative sexual, social and natural relationship the ambiguities and dangers of reconfigured networks of affectivity. Especially of concern to her are the perils of unbridled metamorphosis and the antithetical threat of addiction as a means of stabilizing the chaotic tendencies of uncontrolled processes of becoming. Ultimately, Butler's saga poses the question of free will and its relationship to biological imperatives. Deleuze-Guattari also see the dangers of anarchic becoming, arguing frequently that becoming-other must always be pursued with caution and in selected domains of activity. They do not address the topic of addiction in the same manner as Butler, but their articulation of the politics of social oppression implies a similar concern with the concept of agency in relation to desire. Finally, both Butler and Deleuze-Guattari subordinate their speculations about becoming, sexuality, politics, and sociohistorical and cosmic networks of relation to the general task of imagining a new mode of collective living, which Deleuze-Guattari call "inventing a people to come."

Resisting the Lure of the Fetish: Between Abjection and Fetishism in Kar Wai Wong's In the Mood for Love


Even though abjection has been an unexplored aspect of fetishistic theories, its association with excluded otherness, the logic of disavowal, and the horror of castration not only is basic to fetishism, but also offers an approach to depolarize categories of sexuality and gender. In this essay, a hardly discussed psychological research on the middle pattern between abjection and fetishism is suggested to support a reading of Wong Kar Wai's film In the Mood for Love. Resurrecting fetishism as a new and radical mode of spectatorship, Wong's film evokes a nostalgic mood within the liminal space of his presentation of Hong Kong in the 1960s. His fetishistic impulse resonates in the sequences of slow motion, freeze-frame shots, and role-playing that transcend the temporal constraints of traditional film technique. The director works through the fetishistic processes of affirmation and disavowal through the major female lead Mrs. Chen. Neither can Mrs. Chen simply sustain the status of being a fetish object nor can she accept her own constitution as an abject, as shown in her famous line: "We will never be like them." In this paper, first, I will address the question of whether the issue of abjection can shed light on our understanding of Mrs. Chen's fetishistic desire toward the inanimate objects of chipaos, shoes, and cigarettes, and the reified traits, namely cultural constructs of nostalgia and mimetic performativity of an abject self. I will also explore the issue of whether her disavowal of cruel reality has the potential to destabilize the patriarchal structure of the film. The visual text confirms a back-and-forth route from psyche to body, from erotics to sexuality within a frame of fetishistic scopophilia. However, the object of desire returns repeatedly, not simply to haunt the female subjects, but to take them elsewhere, to the in-betweenness of disavowal and affirmation. Articulating the relation between abjection and fetishism, In the Mood for Love facilitates reflection on a true object cathexis that recalls a lost maternal memory, a reflective mirror that leads us to the primal trauma and offers healing empowerment.

Becoming Modernized or Simply "Modern"? : Sex, Chineseness, Diasporic Consciousness in Lust, Caution


The extended, seemingly self-indulgent sex scenes in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution have generated rather unfavorable responses from both Chinese and Western critics. But this paper argues that these sex scenes are central to Ang Lee's project of interrogating Chineseness from a Taiwanese/diasporic Chinese position. Sex here is just a metaphor for a people-state relationship, which often approximates what we usually understand as "lust." The metaphor unfolds when Wang Jiazhi, abandoned by her biological father, embarks on a quest for a new Father while trying to understand her own femininity, a quest that leads to her involvement in a daring but reckless plan: to sleep with a major collaborator, Mr. Yi, in order to assassinate him. But the resultant misreading of lust as love on the part of Wang (and by extension "the people") is fatal. The romantic feelings she develops for Yi after he voluntarily reveals his vulnerability put her in a difficult situation: in order to love she has to "relinquish" her lover. By highlighting the fact that the people, symbolized by Wang, are bound to play the manipulated feminine role in their romance, as it were, with the state, this film criticizes that modern form of nationalism which is predicated on modernity. The twin target of Ang Lee's criticism -- nationalism/modernity -- is embodied by Yi, an undercover communist and apparently a stauncher-than-usual nationalist, who ironically tries to serve the people by abusing them. Seeing that modern nationalism, presumably devoted to bringing modernity to the nation, has brought more suffering than good, Ang Lee suggests with this film that to outgrow their obsession with modernity, i.e., with "becoming modernized," the people need to become "modern subjects" as Wang has unwittingly done. And one can only do so by undergoing a Lacanian (and Freudian) Versagung or redoubled renunciation, in which what Lacan calls "subjective destitution" is experienced. Ang Lee's caution against "lust" is therefore a call from the diaspora to renegotiate Chineseness by becoming post-Taiwanese/post-Chinese.

Farce, Pathos and Absurdity in Stephen Chow's Film Comedies: From Beijing with Love and CJ7 Reconsidered


Reconfiguring the Past: Cartographies of Post-imperial London in The Satanic Verses and The Buddha of Suburbia


Other Issues

bios, Volume 37, Number 1
Transnational Taiwan, Volume 36, Number 1
The Couch, Volume 35, Number 2