443126 Jing Wang
L04 449 Writing from the Periphery
The Question of Collective Cultural Identity in Notes of a Desolate Man
Notes of a Desolate Man not only depicts a homosexual man’s wonder of the issue of life and death, of love and loneliness, but is a work that quests beyond that. One of the issues it addresses is the question of the collective identity, seen in that how the characters struggle between their Selves and the collective Other. That being said, this paper aims to discuss the question of collective cultural identity in the novel by focusing on the process of the protagonist, Shao, in using writing to position a new self confronting the collective. It argues the transcendence of the narrator’s self at length in crossing...
To reach this conclusion, it is necessary to look at the phases the narrator goes through in finding his own voice in relation to the collective cultural identity. The first phase is described as “the happy age without doubts about identities” when everybody is assigned an identity that encompasses everything (Ch.5). The narrator, Shao, is thus “authentic” in every sense and possesses this “authentic Chinese” identity as a monolithic and collective one. The break with this innocent age and beginning of his wander around as a desolate man takes place at the outbreak of the sexual consciousness of the gay community against the backdrop of democratization in the 80s in Taiwan. The collective identity is broken into pieces, resulting in the concurrence of several cores and peripheries with cores in each periphery as well. It is seen that Shao and his friend, Yao, go onto a diverged path though both remain desolate in the sense that neither has found a positioned self against the broader context. Yao chooses to be the core of the periphery and appears to find his position in the postmodern, fragmented world, yet this condition is fragile at best, as seen in how he remains a “fly man” even if he seems grounded in a collective movement he believes in. Shao, on...
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