Topography of Romantic Love: Journeys, the Fantasy of Love, and Identity Crisis

Dr Fang-Mei Lin (National Taiwan Normal University)
Session 9.1: Romancing Chinese Worlds
Abstract: Taiwanese author Wu Zhuo-Liu’s novel, Orphan of Asia, was written during the end of WWII and Japanese colonial rule. This celebrated novel, which depicts the hero Taiming’s unsuccessful pursuit of identity among three options: the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Taiwanese, has been widely read as a national allegory of identity crisis. In addition to this point, I will argue that Taiming often engages himself in circular journeys among three place (Taiwan, Japan, and China) in search of his ideal woman. His longing for national identity is combined with his romantic imagination of femininity.
Picturesque landscapes inspire his fancy for Japanese and Chinese young ladies. He marries a Chinese girl in Nanjing, China. But his wife turns out to be a “new woman” who is interested in public issues and ignores housework. While Orphan of Asia has been lauded as a national allegory which vividly depicts a Taiwanese man’s self-pursuit of identity and male subjectivity, this paper will point out that Taiming is unaware of his self-indulgence in projecting romantic imagination onto Japanese and Chinese women. He is awakened in the end to see himself as a Taiwanese not because of enlightenment but because of romantic failure. The subject position of being a Taiwanese man is instigated through a sense of shame caused by disillusionment of love. Romantic imagination and disillusionment are essential elements in the constitution of Taiwanese national consciousness, which is based on male one-sided projection of ideal femininity. This paper will conclude with an analysis of the interactions among social and cultural space, geographic landscapes, and the formation of emotional trauma which leads to the final self-awakening of national consciousness.

Unfortunately I missed this session, so for additional insights, please see the following notes:

Renee Dahlia

Dr Jodi McAlister on Twitter

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