This project critiques the impulse to read literature and culture of the Korean diaspora as representative of individual(s), culture(s), or community(ies), and the long-standing focus on what difference looks like. Each of my primary texts has been written or performed by Korean diasporic women in the past three decades. My primary materials also include both Korean and English, and most include a third or even a fourth language. While still attending to visual reading practices, my project privileges the sound of difference. I attend to how these different sounds are represented on the printed page, the cinematic screen, and the theatre stage. Each of these genres and media allows multilinguality to be expressed in different and very specific ways.
My methodology consists of "unreading" contemporary texts. By unreading, I mean the practice of disrupting and deconstructing more dominant languages, vocabularies, and reading practices, guided by Rey Chow's discussion of "unlearning" and Kandice Chuh's work on deconstructing the "Asian American subject." With this approach, I investigate how relations of power are represented in cultural productions. I begin with a discussion of the modernization and democratization of the Korean language, particularly during the period of Japanese colonization. It is within this context that I read the historical traces that emerge in the language(s) of contemporary works. I then consider the grammatical, social, political, and cultural implications of eliciting a specific Western-derived first-person singular subject from a more (potentially deliberately) ambiguous Korean context. In the second half of this project, I turn to the media of film and television to argue that historical traces of the phenomena of early cinema, particularly during Korea's colonial period inform the translation and communication technologies featured in contemporary films of the Korean diaspora. The layering of subtitling in noraebang scenes enacts a doubling of both screens and subtitles, introducing rich layers of textuality while recalling the titles of early cinema. I conclude by considering the specific contributions of this project to the field of Asian American studies.