by Heather Kim
March 1, 2019
17 of 2019, Asian American Writer's Workshop will be hosting a marathon
the magnum opus of Korean-American artist, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.
labeled as a novel,
is, like the author herself, not quite one thing or another. A microcosm
of Cha's lifetime work as an interdisciplinary creative,
encompasses poetry, visual art, photography, and other practices not so
easily named--and it is this resistance to categorization that
constitutes the multiplicity of the book's obsessions: history, memory,
time, displacement, language, loss.
organized into nine parts after the Greek muses,
is not limited to the classics as a source of inspiration, as it
incorporates traditional Korean folklore and historical context. The
personas range from women like Persephone, to Joan of Arc, to Cha
herself--and by virtue of being conflated with each other. they are
myths, mystics, and martyrs, all at once. The text is treated as visual
image; visual image is woven into text. English, Korean, French, and
Chinese appear in the same paragraphs, much of which, like the babbling
of infants, are incomprehensible: the purpose of speaking is not to
deliver a clear message, but to be heard. The act of speaking confers
its own meaning.
loss is personal and universal. That confronts her fear of losing her
mother tongue by recontextualizing language refers to her experience as
a diasporic Korean losing touch with her native language, and also to a
time she did not live through herself--a time when the Korean language
was illegalized under Imperial Japan's rule; and thus, was under threat
of being lost to generations of Koreans to come.
is placed at the intersections of discipline, genre, and identity.
Neither content nor form is set in exclusive boundaries. Dictee resists
narrative, resists certainty, resists the passivity of taking imposed
meanings as truth. Perhaps, then,
is most aptly described as a collage of brilliant fragments: brief but
intense illuminations of a disrupted history.
reading of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee will be held at Performance
Space New York, featuring Theresa's brother John Cha, Alexander Chee,
Kathy Park Hong, and more. RSVP for free through the link below provided
by Asian American Writer's Workshop website.