Lecture by Dr. Erin Brightwell (U of Michigan): "Literature of the Japanese Empire: Imagined Geographies and the Taiwanese 'Subject-Son'"

Michelle Damian Discussion

Dr. Erin Brightwell (University of Michigan) will present "Literature of the Japanese Empire: Imagined Geographies and the Taiwanese 'Subject-Son'" at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, James R. Connor University Center (UC) Rm 261 on Thursday, April 13, at 4pm. The event will be in-person only. 

Even today, the question of “resistance versus collaboration” continues to haunt appraisals of Japanese-language writing by Taiwanese authors during the period of Japan’s colonial occupation of Taiwan. The wartime prose of Wang Changxiong 王昶雄 offers a particularly powerful example of this type of contested reception. Different generations of readers have placed it in different camps, with Wang painted as a loyal imperial subject in some accounts, and representative of a nascent Taiwanese literary consciousness in others.

In this talk, rather than focus on recovering a definitive political allegiance within Wang’s works, Dr. Brightwell proposes beginning from the question of how Wang Changxiong writes the experience of empire from within. Drawing on five surviving novellas and short stories from the period of 1936-1945, she argues that Wang’s texts evince a consistent preoccupation with the role of the male child—as both imperial subject and filial son—as well as with a multi-media cosmopolitan cultural community and Taiwan’s place in it. When examined through these lenses, regardless of whether the texts can be read as pro- or anti-Japanese, they reveal an increasingly restricted web of options for the Taiwanese subject.

This talk is sponsored by the Japanese Studies Advisory Council, the Department of Languages & Literatures, and the College of Letters & Sciences at UW-Whitewater, in collaboration with the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) at UW-Madison, as part of the "Scholars Across Wisconsin" program.