Feminist Duration Reading Group: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee

1 May 2018

Tue 1 May, 7-9pm
SPACE Mare Street
Free & all welcome

The May meeting of the Feminist Duration Reading Group will centre on Korean-American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee (1982). Notoriously difficult to categorise and define, Dictee has alternately been described as an experimental novel, an autobiography, an ethnic autoethnography, and a work of avant-garde art. Dictee combines registers, poetic and literary genres, as well as languages, including English, French, Korean and Chinese. Through a collage of images and fragmented texts, Dictee methodically disrupts narrative coherence and any attempts to locate an authorial position. At the same time, topics such as nationalism and imperialism, war, sacrifice and regeneration recur giving thematic continuity to the writing. In addition, certain passages include autobiographical details reminiscent of Cha’s own personal history.

Because of its thus disparate tendencies, Dictee has triggered much controversy and polarised commentary between scholars that stress the formal and aesthetic aspects of the text as characteristic of postructuralist subjectivity, and those insisting on Cha’s political position and presence in the text as a Korean-American woman. 

During the session we will read out-loud passages from Dictee and explore questions around voice and the speaking subject. Cha’s evocative and vividly sensual writing offers innumerable possibilities of interpretation that productively work together.

Background Reading
Sue J. Kim, ‘Narrator, Author, Reader: Equivocation in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee’ (2008)

Download texts herehere

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha was a performance artist, filmmaker, and writer. She was born in Pusan, South Korean in 1951. In 1961 her family emigrated to the United States where Cha attended a private Catholic high school in San Francisco, the Convent of the Sacred Heart High School. The influences of this period are highly present in Dictee. Cha later went on to study film at the University of California Berkeley and the Centre d'Études Américaines du Cinéma in Paris. In 1982, a week after the publication of Dictee, Cha was brutally raped and murdered. After her death, Dictee quickly went out of print due to its complex style and form. But with the growth of Asian American Studies in the 1990s, the text received renewed critical attention and a new edition was published. Dictee together with Cha’s strong body of work has gone on to inspire a new generation of artists interested in subjects of memory, dislocation and personal experience.

This session of the Feminist Duration Reading Group will be led by Morgane Conti, who is currently completing a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London, of women artists’ practices of self-representation in autobiographical and literary writings.

The Feminist Duration Reading Group focuses on under-known and under-appreciated feminist texts, movements, groups and struggles from outside the Anglo-American feminist tradition. Started at Goldsmiths, University of London, in March 2015, since July 2015 it has been generously hosted by SPACE, 129-131 Mare Street in Hackney.

The group generally meets once a month, alternately on the first Tuesday of the month at 7pm at SPACE and the first Saturday of the month at 4pm a non-institutional venue.

Details of previous meetings can be found on the right-hand panel. 

The Feminist Duration Reading Group welcomes feminists of all genders and generations to explore the legacy and resonance of art, thinking and collective practice from earlier periods of feminism, in dialogue with contemporary practices and movements. It is led by the Feminist Duration Working Group. Current members are Giulia Antonioli, Angelica Bollettinari, Lina Džuverović, Sabrina Fuller, Félicie Kertudo, Mariana Lemos, Roisin O’Sullivan, Sara Paiola, Helena Reckitt, and Justin Seng. 

If you would like to join the Feminist Duration Reading Group mailing list, or propose a focus for a subsequent session, please write to us at feministduration@gmail.com.