By Judith Oster
during this vital new research, Judith Oster seems on the literature of chinese language americans and Jewish americans on the subject of one another. reading what's such a lot at factor for either teams as they reside among cultures, languages, and environments, Oster specializes in the struggles of protagonists to shape identities which are inevitably bicultural and continually in approach. spotting what poststructuralism has validated concerning the instability of the topic and the impossibility of a unitary identification, Oster contends that the writers of those works try to shore up the fragments, to build, via their texts, a few type of wholeness and to reply to no less than partly the questions Who am I? and the place do I belong? Oster additionally examines the connection of the reader to those texts. whilst encountering texts written through and approximately “others,” readers input a global various from their very own, in basic terms to discover that the e-book has turn into mirrorlike, reflecting features of themselves: they come upon identification struggles which are common yet writ huge, extra dramatic, and set in alien environments. one of the figures Oster considers are writers of autobiographical works like Maxine Hong Kingston and Eva Hoffman and writers of fiction: Amy Tan, Anzia Yezierska, Henry Roth, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Lan Samantha Chang, and Frank Chin. In explicating their paintings, Oster makes use of Lacan’s suggestion of the “mirror stage,” learn in language acquisition and bilingualism, the reader-response theories of Iser and Wimmers, and the identification theories of Charles Taylor, Emile Benveniste, and others. Oster presents exact analyses of mirrors and doubling in bicultural texts; the relationships among language and id and among language and tradition; and code-switching and interlanguage (English expressed in a overseas syntax). She discusses foodstuff and starvation as metaphors that categorical the pressing have to pay attention and inform tales at the a part of these forging a bicultural id. She additionally exhibits how American education can undermine the house culture’s inner most values, exacerbating children’s conflicts inside of their households and inside of themselves. In a bankruptcy on theories of autobiography, Oster appears to be like on the act of writing and the way the web page turns into a house that bicultural writers create for themselves. Written in an attractive, readable kind, it is a beneficial contribution to the sphere of multicultural literary feedback.
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Extra resources for Crossing Cultures: Creating Identity in Chinese and Jewish American Literature
When we see stories of successes over even greater odds, more and greater obstacles, we can feel inspired; we may ask, What is your secret? Tell us how you managed. And so we have Horatio Alger and the immigrant novel. Then there are the struggles we all have to undergo to become adult individuals, to become—or flee from, or mold in our own way—what our parents so earnestly wanted us to be, each of us protagonist of our own bildungsroman. Emerging from the cocoon of family; feeling alienated from parents and friends; needing to rebel against the previous generation, to leave it behind and learn our own ways to express what no other person, no previous generation, has needed to express; forging our own identity out of all we have experienced and learned at home and at school—is this not what we see in cross-cultural literature, literature written in the throes of immigration or of living in an immigrant family?
6 But here, as with the mutual mirroring of “others,” what is seen, what perhaps is being sought, is also connection. Sander L. 7 I would like to suggest that at the same time there is attraction both by what is different and by what is similar. 8 Don’t stereotype us, please. Furthermore, some of us are not so great in math; some of us write novels and poems. ” No one spoke, though, of either models or minorities: we were Jews, period. We were stereotyped as smart—not on our way to becoming engineers, though, but doctors.
The texts I will examine dramatize the instability of subjectivity, as well as the urgency to create it. While deconstructionists undermine our notions of identity, personhood, and subjectivity, the writers of these texts, who already know about fragmentation of life and language—its instability and unreliability—attempt the reverse process: to shore up the fragments, to create, however tentatively and inadequately, wholeness out of those fragments. One could even say that the very act of structuring words and fictions, of creating characters, of binding language and situations into artistic wholes, is itself mimetic—an imitation, as in magic—of what is desired.
Crossing Cultures: Creating Identity in Chinese and Jewish American Literature by Judith Oster