Julie Lee

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Strange Animations in Toni Morrison’s "Home" and Oh Jung-hee’s "Chinatown"
Department:
English
Term:
Spring 2017

My honors thesis, titled “Intimate/Intimidated: Strange Animations in Toni Morrison’s Home and Oh Jung-hee’s ‘Chinatown,’” brings together two contemporary luminaries’ works of historical fiction in attempt to reconcile—not simply contrast—the mutually overlooked Black American and South Korean perspectives on the Korean War. Notwithstanding important differences in language, nationality, and race, Morrison and Oh similarly undermine various justifications for war and nationalism by troubling the “naturalness” of violence and biological kinship. Both novelists not only strangely animate the natural world through anthropomorphism and pathetic fallacy, but also animate strangers such as Korean sex workers and Black G.I.s according to the linguistic concepts of animacy and empathy hierarchy. In engaging with Morrison’s 2012 novella and three versions of Oh’s 1979 short story (the Korean original, Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton’s 1989 translation, and Peggy C. Cho’s 2004 illustrated translation), I ask if and how one can regard the pain of others as intimately and complexly as one’s own without upholding a hierarchy of oppression or resorting to fetishistic appropriation.