Rehistoricizing Differently, Differently: American Literary Globalism and Disruptions of Neo-Colonial Discourse in Tropic of Orange and Dogeaters By Patrick S. Lawrence [T]he question of aesthetic representation is always also a debate about political representation. Lisa Lowe (4) Flyers were passed out, information verbally reproduced and distributed almost simultaneously with the frenzy of a kind of information saturation. … The entirety of the message was disseminated in a thousand languages, including Spanglish, ebonics, and pidgin, to everyone. Karen Tei Yamashita (213) In her article “The Ends of America, the Ends of Postmodernism,” Rachel Adams compares Karen Tei Yamashita’s spectacular narrative of apocalypse and regeneration, Tropic of Orange (1997), to Thomas Pynchon’s paranoid tale of aborted Manifest Destiny, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966). Through a reading of the globally-oriented, specifically hemispheric vision found in Yamashita’s novel and Pynchon’s more U.S.-focused work, Adams proposes a new model of literature that might succeed postmodernism and signal a transition out of the solipsistic experiments of that aesthetic into a more political and more global one that she calls “American literary globalism” (250). As we strive to define the current literary moment, in which we perceive the falling away of a postmodernism aesthetic but are unsure of what will succeed it, Adams’s proposal for a global literature that grapples with the material fallout of a postmodern economic system is encouraging. In this article, I will attempt to describe what I see as some potential stylistic variants within the new literary globalism and how they inflect an ethics rooted in both economic and racial justice. In this way I hope to contribute to ongoing efforts to uncover promising trends in literary production and continue a conversation about the important political projects such literature can engage.
Through a comparative reading of two important transnational Asian American texts, Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters and Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange, I argue that multiplicity of narration may, but does not always, resist the imposition of culturally dominant aesthetic modes, especially historical and nationalist narratives and multiculturalism. While Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange delegates narrative power to seven characters, it ultimately stages an ambiguous clash of discourses with a multiculturalist historicizing voice that is limited by its own contradictory impulses to control and containment. The novel dialogizes its excessive tendencies by scripting plural-but-discrete identities. In contrast, Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters diffuses its perspectives nearly (or potentially) infinitely, and this infinite multiplication of voices that represents a more direct critique of power. The novel juxtaposes voices from multiple social strata, differing sexual identities, and diverse genres; there is such a profusion of radically different perspectives that the novel makes it impossible for any single voice to dominate. The purpose of this comparative analysis is to begin to understand the specific relationships between resistant cultural formations and material political structures as well as to situate these two novels in the context of what Rachel Adams has termed “American literary globalism.” Lisa Lowe’s Immigrant Acts is also an important frame for the argument, though the article extends her contentions about the useful contradictions of Asian American identity from the political, legal, and economic realm into the aesthetic.
Lawrence, Patrick S.
"Rehistoricizing Differently, Differently: American Literary Globalism and Disruptions of Neo-Colonial Discourse in Tropic of Orange and Dogeaters,"
Asian American Literature: Discourses & Pedagogies: Vol. 7
, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/aaldp/vol7/iss1/4