label r shifted
Session C6
Appropriation of Space as a Place for Collective Memory in Contemporary Taiwan: Wu Ming-Yi’s The Illusionist on the Skywalk as a Case Study
Marta Paolesse
Foreign Culture, Languages and Literature, Roma Tre University, Italy

At the dawn of the new millennium, Taiwanese Literature has been characterized by fin-de-siècle overtones interpreted, as in Bhabha’s stance, as a transit moment where space and time intertwine to create new identities and complex images. Due to this reason, the most recent literary production in the island has been imbued with new interpretations of the concepts of time, space, and memory. The paper will be based on my ongoing Ph.D. research project, focusing primarily on the construction of space in Wu Ming-yi’s The Illusionist on the Skywalk, with a specific focus on the relation between collective memory and spatial organization within the collection itself. The aim of the paper is to place Wu Ming-yi’s work within the broader theoretical discussion of the “spatial turn”, employing space as the main object of analysis. Space has always been a pivotal notion in Taiwanese Literature, being one of the agents influencing the cultural production of the community. Despite confining the setting of the collection to the former Chunghwa Market in Taipei, The Illusionist on the Skywalk presents interesting elements, as far as the construction of space is concerned, both within the market itself and in general terms. Basing the analysis on Soja’s concept of “thirdspace”, I will argue that the market is depicted by Wu as an interstice for identity negotiation, in an attempt to reconstruct both individual and personal memory through the narrative expedient of a familiar locus for Taipei people. The paper will also argue that the setting of the novels reflects the idea of an imaginary dialectic between different binary categories, such as fiction and reality, politics and culture, Mainland China and the Sinophone world. Moreover, I aim at demonstrating that the construction of space in The Illusionist on the Skywalk serves as a dynamic network of relationship, creating the dimension of “place” as intended by Augé, despite its unreal nature. The spatial analysis will be correlated with the theme of memory, in order to depict its importance in the collection and in Wu’s production overall. Given said premises, the paper will reconstruct the spatial turn in Wu’s novel while tracing the recreation of collective memory into a defined, yet unreal, location.