Articulate Silences

Cheung, King-Kok 1993. Articulate Silences: Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Articulate Silences engages, at times tacitly, in a three-way conversation. In analyzing the writing of Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingson, and Joy Kogawa I am in dialogue with recent feminist theories about women's poetics, notably those regarding narrative gaps or ellipses, and with scholarship concerning ethnicity. (Cheung 1993: 1)
My own work follows the very same logic: I am also in a three-way conversation. In analyzing the writing of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Ray Bradbury I am in dialogue with recent theories of social power and nonverbal communication, notably those regarding semiotics of behavior.
In the theoretical-philosophical realm, many thinkers - among them Augustine, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Picard, Wittgenstein, Foucault, Dauenhauer, Derrida - have in their own ways valorized speechlessness or displaced logocentrism. In literature, irony and understatement, as well as other mdoes of implicit communication, have always been appreciated (see, for example, Portch, Sontag, Stout, and J. A. Ward). (Cheung 1993: 2)
Portch! This passage makes me wonder if displacing logocentrism is not a too roundabout way to describe the situation and if I should instead of nonverbalism talk about bodycentrism?
Chan [1989] further notes that these students must overcome a "double repression" - "Asian traditions that train the young (and especially the female) to be quiet, submissive, and obedient and American racism that threatens members of minority groups with harm unless they 'stay in place.' Staying in their place means keeping silent" (276-77). (Cheung 1993: 6; footnote 9)
I fully expect the military training to follow similar logic.
It is worth noting that the Chinese and Japanese character for "silence" is antonymous less with "speech" than with "noise," "motion," and "commotion." I elaborate on this point in chap. 4. According to Kunihiro, "One characteristic of the Japanese attitude towards language is the comparatively light emphasis place on overt linguistic expression. To the Japanese, language is a means of communication, whereas to the people of many other cultures it is the means. Japanese tend to be taciturn, considering it a virtue to say little and rely on nonlinguistic means to convey the rest. Verbal expression is often fragmentary and unsystematic, with emotional, communal patterns of communication" (56). (Cheung 1993: 8; footnote 11)
The nonverbalist project, I think, is to make a culture that considers verbalization primary (namely, my own) to consider it merely as one among many means of communication and, even more, signification.


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