Literary Criticism: Identity, Trauma and Globalization
Kate Chiwen Liu
The above three passages merely provide glimpses of the fast, radical
and chaotic changes happening around us and the 'seemingly' glorious
and simple days of the past. They also pose pertinent and difficult
questions about identity, trauma and globalization. How do we as literary
majors deal with these questions in this world of radical changes? And
how have "they" (artists, literary writers and critical theorists)
tried to do it?
This course has two goals:
1. doing literary criticism as a professional critic (see
2. critical engagement in the following questions with the stimuli of
their theoretical and artistic configurations:
I. From New Criticism to New Historicism (6 wk): Identity and History
What is Identity and how is it related to history and trauma?
How does a text produce its meanings about identity and history both
through form and content?
What are the different assumptions about text, identity and history
in New Criticism and New Historicism?
II. Post-Colonialism (3 wk): Identity, Race and Nation
What is colonialism? What does it do to one's sense of racial or
How do the colonized resist colonization? Is de-colonization possible?
How does a post-colonial nation (like Taiwan) deal with its national
history (esp. its traumas) and national identity?
III. Postmodernism (3 wk): History and Globalization
In the postmodern age, why is historiography challenged while there
have been an excessive attempts at telling and making histories?
How do postmodern fictions and texts reconstruct history and trauma
while acknowledging its impossibility?
How has globalization (especially cultural globalization) impacted
on our sense of identities?
IV. Problematizing Identity, Trauma and Globalization (4 wk): To wrap
up on all the complicated theories and issues we will have dealt with
at this point, we will ask:
Of all the ways of constructing histories and identities by the theorists
and the cultural workers, which do we support or find useful to ourselves?
How are colonialism, trauma and globalization interconnected with
each other? How do we position ourselves in relation to them?
The areas I will select my examples are:
-- Stories and (excerpts of) novels about history since the 19th
-- one or two examples of New Historicist treatments of Shakespeare;
-- Trauma narratives of Hiroshima and Vietnam war
-- Modern and Contemporary English stories about race relations
-- National allegories or Historical Films of Taiwan's New Cinema
-- Contemporary global culture and writings about Chinese diaspora.
Goal I: "Doing" Literary Criticism
In dealing with literary and cultural texts, we need to know first what
literary criticism is. Literary criticism is different from literary
appreciation: the latter involves expressions of your feelings and pleasure
in reading, your likes and dislikes of a text, while the former, as
a formal training for literature majors, requires both literary sensibility
and critical thinking. In other words, literary criticism consists of
careful analysis of literary texts with a conscious use of some critical
frameworks and methods and an active engagement in their critical issues.
(For further details on what literary criticism is, please view this
Here I emphasize 'doing' because we will not only deal with theoretical
and literary texts, but also see how their ideas can be practiced in
their worlds-and ours. In other words, we will try to improve our abilities
1. analyzing literary texts from more than one critical perspective;
2. responding critically to the issues raised by the chosen theoretical,
literary and cultural texts;
3. placing, with the help of some critical theories, literature and
the issues involved in a larger context, such as those of the texts'
contemporary society, our society and our lives.