Sophie, Hsin-lin Su | Paths with/out Us: Three Case Studies of Environmental Changes and Environmental Aestheticism in Taiwanese Literature | Utrecht University, Comparative Literature, Department of Languages, Literature and Communication, ICON | Supervisors: Professor Ann Rigney and Dr. Birgit M. Kaiser | September 1, 2016- August 30, 2020
This project draws on and positions itself partially within the field of ecocriticism to examine three case studies involving aesthetic representations of environmental changes in Taiwanese literature and culture: representations of butterflies, flying fish, and nuclear radiation in the region of the Pacific Ocean. Butterflies and flying fish are iconic species in Taiwan. Texts by Wu Ming-yi, Syman Rapongan, and Liao Hung-chi, depicting environmental changes through lenses of biodiversity loss and focusing especially on butterflies and flying fish, show how environmental topics have attracted the attention of Taiwanese writers. The aesthetic representations of environmental changes in these three writers’ texts show that the writers have started a certain kind of ecological thoughts in Taiwanese literature and evoke a literary turn since began in the 1980s. The endemic butterfly species Euploea Mucilber migrates from Taiwan to the southern Japanese archipelago, and flying fish migrate with the Kuroshio current from the tropics to the northeastern Japanese coast; portrayed in multiple metaphorical analogies with the immigrant culture of Taiwan in these three writers’ texts, these migratory paths have drawn the attention of environmentally inflected scholarship on Taiwanese literature. Not only do the metaphorical expressions of these paths illustrate colonial and migratory history of Taiwan as a unique hybrid of Japanese colonialization, Han ethnicity and indigenous ethnicity, but they also reveal conspicuous links between Taiwanese literature and its concerns about impacts of environmental changes through their aesthetic representations.