Since the publication of The Woman Warrior in 1976, Maxine Hong Kingston has gained a reputation as one of the most popular—and controversial—writers in the Asian American literary tradition. This book traces her development as a writer and cultural activist through both ethnic and feminist discourses, investigating her novels, occasional writings, and her two-book ‘life-writing project’. The publication of The Woman Warrior not only propelled Kingston into the mainstream literary limelight, but also precipitated a vicious and ongoing controversy in Asian American letters over the authenticity—or fakery—of her cultural references. This book traces the debates through the appearance of China Men (1981), as well as the novel Tripmaster Monkey (1989) and her most recent work The Fifth Book of Peace.
. Interesting discussions of Kingston’s two-book life-writingproject have appeared in Sidonie Smith’s A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography: Marginality and the Fictions of Self-Representation (1987) and Subjectivity, Identity, and the Body: Women’s Autobiographical Practices in the Twentieth Century (1993); and Françoise Lionnet’s Postcolonial Representations: Women, Literature, Identity (1995).
Maxine Hong Kingston’s contribution to Asian American feminism via her life writing is the subject of several other critical studies, such as Rachel Lee
Kingston has gained a reputation as one of the most popular – and controversial – writers in the Asian American literary tradition, who has been by turn celebrated and excoriated. Kingston’s development as a writer and cultural activist in relation to both ethnic and feminist traditions, occurs across the range of her expanding oeuvre: her two novels, her occasional writings and her two-book life-writingproject. How do we account for the phenomenal success of The Woman Warrior – the most widely read title in American universities today – a success that not only
But Jarman's life-writingproject also looks outwards. It provides a social act for those of us who are younger than him. Paul de Man has argued that ‘autobiographical discourse is a discourse of self-restoration’, yet Jarman's preoccupation with life-writing makes use of this ‘self-restoration’ for socially concerned ends.
Sarah Brophy reads the impulse as pedagogical, which is certainly a part of it, but Jarman's life-writingproject goes further than this: it is a commitment to the transformational imagination
, Woman of Peace (1993). Le Ly Hayslip’s two-book life-writingproject mirrors Kingston’s own work in many ways, not least in her own vexed relationship with the conflict in Vietnam as an Asian American woman. Like Kingston, Hayslip spent many years outside of the US (for Hayslip, in Vietnam) which provided her with a differently nuanced perspective on the Vietnam conflict. Hers is a position of insider–outsider: she was actively involved in the conflict, as a peasant imprisoned and then tortured and raped by the ARVN (the army of South Vietnam), before her eventual
-reflection contained in these personal journals. Farthing and Webb-Ingall refer to them as ‘intentionally glamorous, but nonetheless deliberative, reflective work spaces, in which the recording and ordering of the past is as significant as the anticipation of the future’.
This helps us consider Jarman's published autobiographical texts as part of a wider life-writingproject, using material from his life as art, but not hoping to arrive at a set destination or finished product
-memories that he hopes have the potential to develop affective investment from his audiences and to create connections with others.
This chapter focuses on particular moments from the two films in which Jarman uses his body on screen. These self-representations comprise part of his wider life-writingproject. Premised on the expanded concept of the autobiographical signature or trace, the term ‘life-writing’ encompasses every instance of cultural production that involves the representation of a body, relation of life stories or inscriptions that form a
narrating self. Indeed, one might
construe what happens in African women’s literatures as a form of
‘scriptotherapy’, in that ‘the subject of enunciation
theoretically restores a sense of agency to the hitherto fragmented
self, now recast as a protagonist of his or her life drama. Through the
artistic replication of a coherent subject-position, the life-writingproject generates a healing narrative that