【活動報導】「英美文學秋季論壇」第三場: 10/17 “Writing in the time of COVID-19: Race, Dystopia, and the Humanities in/of Crisis”

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【英美文學學會訊息】【活動報導】「英美文學秋季論壇」第三場: 10/17Writing in the time of COVID-19: Race, Dystopia, and the Humanities in/of Crisis”

The English and American Literature Association was honored to host a trans-Pacific online panel with Pulitzer-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen (University of Southern California), Jessica Chia-Hsu Chang (Binghamton University) and Yi-Ting Chang (Pennsylvania State University). Moderator Andy Chih-Ming Wang of Academia Sinica in Taiwan started the event off with an introduction to the COVID-19 premise, posing questions regarding how the raging global pandemic has affected the meaning and functions of writing.

As the first speaker, Viet dived into the topic of racism against Asian Americans during COVID-19, offering valuable insight to the use of immigration and refugee experiences as a way to build up “narratives of antiracism, multiculturalism, inclusion and belonging.” He went on to discuss the possibilities of using writing to battle to increasingly apparent inequalities in society and reaffirm the place of minorities. His own books feature the Vietnam War as a way to situate his experience into the wider history of American colonialism as opposed to the narrative of the American Dream. Viet explained that he sees the current domestic racial relationships as an outcome of slavery, genocide and conquest justified by manifest destiny and civilization. He concluded by urging Asian Americans, writers, critics and scholars to talk about these issues outside of the given ideology and privileges of a “model minority.”

Next, Jessica shared her recent collaborative project, Pandemic Solidarity: Mutual Aid during the COVID-19 Crisis, a book that covers a wide spectrum of pandemic and social issues from voices all over the world. She told us that writing during COVID-19 is about expressing emotions like anger and grief; challenging the dismissal of emotions as irrational and explaining that writers should embrace subjectively and self-reflection. Jessica went on to describe the book’s spirit of border transgression and cross-barrier discussion, “we found that such a conversation just naturally began as people see each other’s pain, struggle and survival and no barrier shall stop it; we the authors and the translators are just the propellers in this conversation.” She emphasized the important role of authentic translation to the global conversation, especially as a tool for resistance and conveying the ideas of minorities.

Finally, Yi-Ting reflected on the meaning of crisis, the use of writing as a way to attend to ourselves and also the contradiction of writing in these times. She recounted from personal experience that the state of crisis already existed pre-COVID-19 due to broken neoliberal institutions and explained that the pandemic simply intensified the violence and inequality that were always there. Furthermore, she talked about the hardships of minorities in regards to alienation and the pressure to conform to a social ideal. “[Writing] creates a space where we can acknowledge those minor feelings and validate their existence without worrying about the politics of respectability or appropriateness.” Yi- Ting then described an assignment given to her students, where subjective responses to the pandemic and mutual engagement were encouraged. Lastly, she also touched upon the impossibility of writing in an environment that diverts focus and feels unsafe.

 

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