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Displaced Desires

The Dislocated Self and Melancholic Desire in Chuang Hua’s ‘Crossings’ and Fae Myenne Ng’s ‘SteerToward Rock’

Anna Pehkoranta


Pages 255 - 273



This essay investigates two aesthetically innovative Chinese American prose narratives, ‘Crossings’ (1968) by Chuang Hua and ‘Steer Toward Rock’ (2008) by Fae Myenne Ng, which have so far inspired relatively few scholarly readings. Although published forty years apart, both texts convey a melancholic image of displaced desires—loved ones who are lost, beyond reach, or unresponsive—that is echoed by their complex narrative structure and rich stylistic repertoire. Drawing from the psychoanalytically informed notion of racial melancholia, this essay argues that in Chuang’s ‘Crossings’ and in Ng’s ‘Steer Toward Rock’ the dynamics of melancholia manifest most prominently in the ways their dislocated characters negotiate between a melancholic desire to preserve a lost object of love, on one hand, and a persistent quest for an integrated sense of self, on the other. By examining their dislocated Asian American subjects, transnational love affairs, and melancholic desire, this essay suggests that both writers contribute to a particular aesthetics and ethics of melancholia, in which identificatory and narrative boundaries alike are contested and transgressed. It further argues that melancholia is present in these two narratives not only as an ethical or political construct but equally as an aesthetic element that significantly adds to the ethical import of Chuang’s and Ng’s fiction.

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