Playing Truant with Language, or the Journey of the “Diseuse” in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée and Exilée – Temps Morts – Selected Works

Abstract : Theresa Hak Kyung Cha is a Korean American writer and visual artist whose extraordinarily hybrid production includes experimental poetry, mail art, handmade books, videos, films, multi-media performances. Her 1982 autobiographical memoir Dictée – which juxtaposes narrative passages, poetry, pages of handwritten texts, grammar and translation exercises, diagrams, black-and white photographs, etc. – escapes established canons, and its title is an apt reminder that Cha’s oeuvre is a systematic act of resistance against all constraining systems, be they linguistic, artistic or political. This paper focuses on Dictée and other earlier and lesser-known written pieces posthumously collected in a volume entitled Exilée – Temps Morts – Selected Works (2009). It shows that Cha’s undoing of the rules of standard English and her replacing obedient repetition by vagabond deviation is doubly subversive as Cha often plays on the very vectors of linguistic doxa: language drills and declensions. I further argue that Cha’s frequent play with French and of translation is what makes her texts so inventive, freeing them more definitely from the overarching rigid system of standard English. It indeed opens up her works to a space of in-betweenness and irresolution which is the locus of her metamorphosis from speaker – bound by the code of a given language – to “diseuse”, a truly free marginal figure.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - 8:43:41 AM
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Marie-Agnès Gay. Playing Truant with Language, or the Journey of the “Diseuse” in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée and Exilée – Temps Morts – Selected Works. 59e Congrès de la SAES - L'Exception, Société des Anglicistes de l'Enseignement Supérieur, Jun 2019, Aix-en-Provence, France. ⟨hal-02317398⟩

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