SEIS Academic Forum Series
Forum on Culture Studies
“Where the Wild Things Are”: Reading the Writings of Sui Sin Far, Onoto Watanna, and Sigrid Nunez through Affect Theory
座谈人：Dominika Ferens (弗罗茨瓦夫企业）
座谈人概况：Dominika Ferens is associate professor of Institute of English Studies, University of Wroclaw. She got her postdoctoral degree from University of Wroclaw in 2011 and her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from UCLA respectively in 1999 and 1997. Ferens is a highly accomplished scholar whose academic interests range from? American minority literatures, theories of race, gender, and sexuality, intersections of literature and ethnography to travel narratives and popular fiction. She is the author ofWays of Knowing Small Places: Intersections of American Literature and Ethnography Since the 1960s(Wroclaw: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wroclawskiego, 2010) andEdith and Winnifred Eaton: Chinatown Missions and Japanese Romances(Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2002), numerous research papers as well as the editor and coeditor of a number of books, journals and special issues. Her work on Edith Maude Eaton and Winnifred Eaton is indispensable to Chinese American literary studies. Ferens has also won prominent awards, including Silver Medal for Long Service awarded by the President of Poland (2014), Polish Minister of Education and Sports, Annual Award for Best Academic Publications (2003) and several Rector’s Award from University of Wroclaw for her excellent academic achievements and services (2012, 2002, 2001).
This lecture introduces elements of psychologist Silvan Tomkins’s affect theory to examine the dramatic interplay of the affects shame, anger, and interest in the writings by three mixed-race writers of Chinese ancestry. Reflection on affect is obviously not limited to literature about mixed race, but in the past people with racially ambiguous bodies may have been disproportionately exposed to the negative affects of others, and thus may have foregrounded these experiences in literature. Narrative fiction is particularly well suited to representing affects because it unfolds as a series of episodes that can be used for articulating what Tomkins describes as “affective scenes” – affective experiences filed away in our memories according to “scripts.” Far from being static, scripts are subject to revision in response to new experiences. Onoto Watanna’s biographical novelMarion(1916) and Sui Sin Far’s autobiographical essay “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian” (1909) can be read as in-depth studies of a racially marked subject’s experience of repeated shaming by others’ curious gaze, and seeking ways to neutralize the shame through anger. A sequence of affective scenes also structures Sigrid Nunez’s much later story “Chang” (1995). Her novelFor Rouenna(2001), which does not overtly thematize race, has a submerged plot organized around an economy of interest and shame. The questions raised by all these narratives are: How does shame morph into anger and vice versa? What draws and holds our interest? How is interest different from curiosity? How does others’ interest in us neutralize shame and sustain our subjectivity? Can affects be political?