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Humanities 2019, 8(1), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010028

How Karen Tei Yamashita Literalizes Feminist Subversion: Extreme Domesticity, Space-Off Reversals, and Virtual Resistances in Tropic of Orange

Department of English, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4121, USA
Received: 27 November 2018 / Revised: 4 February 2019 / Accepted: 5 February 2019 / Published: 12 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Negotiating Spaces in Women’s Writing)
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Abstract

In Tropic of Orange (1997), Karen Tei Yamashita builds an expansive narrative on the premise that the Tropic of Cancer shifts mysteriously from its actual latitude, barely north of Mazatlán, México, to that of L.A.’s latitude: from 23.43692° north of the Equator to 34.0522° N. By doing so, Yamashita literally takes that which is “south of the border” and repositions it in a hub of neoliberal hegemony; that is, she takes what is below (“sub-”) and puts it on top (“-vert”). I read such a literal and magically realistic move as an allegorical template that guides the novel in its entirety, but more specifically, in its repositioning of women from their spaces of relegation to spaces animated by their resistances to such relegation; from spaces of dependency to spaces characterized by feminine influence. This essay examines three strategies through which feminist subversions may be accomplished according to Yamashita’s textual template: The first follows Susan Fraiman’s theory of Extreme Domesticity (Fraiman 2017) as it tracks how subservient spaces of home and household can become sites of nonconformity; the second takes its cue from the cinematic strategies of “space-off” and “reversal” as examples of how marginal or negative spaces can be leveraged against the male gaze (c.f. José Rodríguez Herrera’s analysis of Sarah Polley’s film adaptation of Alice Munro’s “The Bear Came Over The Mountain,” Herrera 2013); and the third engages my own notion of a spatial virtuality (“that which is present without being local,” Munro 2014) as a mode of resistance that culminates, ultimately, in “a condition of literature,” that is to say, a condition in which Tropic of Orange refers to the conditions of its own making instead of referring to the conditions that create it (ibid.). My tripartite method thus highlights and celebrates the domestic, cinematic, and technological spaces of Yamashita’s writing, respectively, just as it articulates how these spaces might also be read as subversively feminist and feminizing. But it also meditates formally and contextually, as Tropic of Orange’s condition of literature implies, a sort of ablated feminist narratology, even as it works toward feminist narratological ends.
Keywords: Karen Tei Yamashita; feminist subversion; modes of resistance; affect; neoliberalism; individualism; representationalism; domesticity; spatial virtuality; Latin American literature; Asian American literature; global Anglophone Karen Tei Yamashita; feminist subversion; modes of resistance; affect; neoliberalism; individualism; representationalism; domesticity; spatial virtuality; Latin American literature; Asian American literature; global Anglophone
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Frank, N.D. How Karen Tei Yamashita Literalizes Feminist Subversion: Extreme Domesticity, Space-Off Reversals, and Virtual Resistances in Tropic of Orange. Humanities 2019, 8, 28.

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