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Weakness in Wu Ming-Yi's Kuyu Zhi Di



In this paper, I will examine the various kinds of weakness presented in Taiwanese writer Wu Ming-Yi's Kuyu zhi di (The Land of Little Rain). Before Kuyu, the term "weakness" has pervaded both his life and writings. In Diedao (The Dao of Butterflies), Wu confesses his visual weakness, which triggers his interest in light and color-related entities. In Midiezhi (The Book of Lost Butterflies), he endorses Bryan G. Norton's notion of weak anthropo-centrism. In his literary works, including the well-acclaimed novels Fuyan ren (The Man with Compound Eyes) and Danche shiqie ji (The Stolen Bicycle), Wu articulates the weakness of nature in face of human exploitation. While various senses of weakness-including "disability," "mildness," and "vulnerability"-are expressed in different texts, he plays with the semantic variety and multiplicity of the word further in Kuyu: its six stories depict diverse types of human weakness, roles of nature, and interplays of the two in different processes of human spiritual evolution. This suggests that the novella collection features weakness both in theme and form. To clarify the importance of my approach to Kuyu, I will first sketch the relationship between humans and nature as reflected in Wu's writings and by the critical reception of them. Then, I will explain what I mean by "weak definition" and "weak depiction" to elucidate the significance of what I call "formal weakness." Afterwards, I will analyze Kuyu in terms of its rendition of human weaknesses, the functions of nature, and the correlations of the two in human spiritual evolution and do so according to Wu's design (i.e., pair by pair). For the conclusion, I will discuss formal weakness or the weak annihilation of annihilation as his answer to the inquiry after "the meaning of annihilation as an essence of life" in Kuyu.

Parallel abstracts

本文旨在討論臺灣作家吳明益中篇小說集《苦雨之地》所呈現的各種「弱」(weakness)。早在《苦雨》之前,「弱」一詞已在吳明益的生命與寫作裡反覆出現。譬如說,他曾於《蝶道》一書中提到,其天生便有紅綠色弱,卻因此對於光以及與色彩相關的事物充滿興趣;在《迷蝶誌》裡,他則寫到對於諾頓(Bryan G. Norton)「溫和的人類中心主義」(weak anthropocentrism)概念的認同。此外,吳明益的小說作品,如他最有名的《複眼人》與《單車失竊記》,則刻劃了面對人類的破壞時,自然所顯現的脆弱。如果說他在不同的作品裡,書寫了不同意義的「弱」-如「失能」、「溫和」與「脆弱」等-那麼到了《苦雨》,他則進一步推展「弱」在語意上的變化與多樣性:其六篇中篇小說各自訴說不同的人類之弱、自然角色,以及這兩者在小說裡人類角色的「精神演化」(spiritual evolution)中所展現的各種互動。換句話說,《苦雨》之「弱」,不僅是主題上的,同時也是形式上的。為了要釐清「弱」作為本文方法學的重要性,本文會先回顧吳明益作品中所呈現的人與自然之關聯,並藉由批評家對於這些文本的閱讀,來說明《苦雨》所勾勒的「弱」之轉變。再來,本文探討所謂的「形式之弱」(formal weakness),尤其是所謂的「弱定義」與「弱描述」,以此作為閱讀《苦雨》的基礎。接著,本文依照吳明益的安排,也就是兩兩成對,分析這六篇故事所描繪的人類之弱、自然功能,以及人類精神演化中這兩者的關係。最後,本文處理吳明益在《苦雨》後記中對於「湮滅做為一種生命的本質意義何在」的探問,並以形式之弱或是「湮滅之弱湮滅」(weak annihilation of annihilation)作為其在該中篇小說集所留下的回應。

Parallel keywords

吳明益 《苦雨之地》 自然 精神演化 形式之弱


Chang, Chia-ju, and Scott Slovic, editors. Ecocriticism in Taiwan: Identity, Environment, and the Arts. Lexington, 2016.
Chang, Kathryn Yalan. “If Nature Had a Voice: A Material-Oriented Environmental Reading of Fuyan ren (The Man with the Compound Eyes).” Chang and Slovic, pp. 95-107.
Huang, Tsung-chieh 黃宗潔. “Naxie yunduan yaoshi ye wufa kaiqu zhi jing-Wu Ming-Yi’s Kuyu zhi di” 那些雲端鑰匙也無法開啟之境——吳明益《苦雨之地》[“Places Those Cloud Keys Cannot Unlock Either”]. Media Mirror, 25 Jan. 2019, www.mirrormedia.mg/story/20180124cul001/.
Jhuang, Chuan-fen 莊傳芬. “Quanqiu shengtai yishi de zaidi zhanxian: Wu Ming-Yi’s Jia li shuibian name jin zhong de shuiyu shengtai yu zuqun whenhua jingquan” 全球生態意識的在地展現:吳明益《家離水邊那麼近》中的水域生態與族群文化景觀[“A Local Practice of Global Ecological Consciousness: Water Ecology and Ethnic Culture in Wu Mingyi’s So Much Water So Close to Home”]. Taiwan Literature Studies, no. 4, June 2013, pp. 231-59.
Juan, Rose Hsiu-li. “Imagining the Pacific Trash Vortex and the Spectacle of Environmental Disaster: Environmental Entanglement and Literary Engagement in Wu Ming-yi’s Fuyan ren (The Man with the Compound Eyes).” Chang and Slovic, pp. 79-93.