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Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translin ...

Chapter 1:  Sighting Eurasia
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Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora:

Consciousness: A Sudden Splitting

The splitting of consciousness, wherein a woman writer finds herself momentarily outside a traditionally male institution, bespeaks a condition of exile that permits a critical detachment as artist and intellectual. A woman’s relationship to the word differs strikingly from that of men in Bloomsbury society: the very act of textual production by a woman exists in state of translation to herself. French feminists such as Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Monique Wittig have made this point, validating the fluidity of a feminized consciousness, one written from the body, so to speak. Although I do not mean to overlook the assumptions underlying essentialism in the French school, I examine the idea of writing from one’s body as a translation of a preverbal consciousness in order to begin discussing models of mediation in To the Lighthouse (1927)—models partly inflected, I contend, by Eurasian vocabularies distinct from, although not apart from, the discourse of Orientalism.1

Around the same time that Virginia Woolf was contemplating the walled-in grounds of Oxbridge, the Eurasian writer Sui Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton, 1865–1914) across the Atlantic, also a modern woman writer, was voicing the internal division and sense of marginalization evident in her own experiences as a woman writer and a Eurasian Canadian. Sui Sin Far published advocacy and fiction about Chinese and Eurasian North Americans during an era of Sinophobia in turn-of-the-century America. Her collection of short fiction and essays, Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Tales of Chinese Children, selected and edited as a volume with introductions by Amy Ling and Annette White-Parks in 1995, brings together the cultural experience of her Eurasian heritage. Her father was English-Irish by descent and her mother, Chinese. Unlike her sister, Onoto Watanna (Winifred Lillie Eaton, 1875–1954), who chose to identify herself as a Japanese American writer by adopting a Japanese-sounding pseudonym, Sui Sin Far chose to stand for her Chinese heritage through her pen name, her advocacy work, and her writings.2