Post-Migrant Subjectivity and Secondary Loss : Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club


Sorensen, Eli Park

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In this article, I explore the notion of post-migrant subjectivity via critical discussion of Sigmund Freud’s well-known but also controversial essay “Mourning and Melancholia,” and Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club. In my discussion of Freud’s essay, I attempt to investigate a concept of melancholia which in one sense is related to the process of unresolved grief and loss, but also, at the same time, connected to the gesture of performativity and creativity. This critical approach constitutes the background against which I read Amy Tan’s novel as a “post-migrant” novel. Tan’s novel tells the complex and multifaceted story of the relationship between first generation individuals, who emigrated from China, and their children who are growing up in America. The first-generation’s children, or, the post-migrant subjects, occupy an ambiguous position—torn between a desire to fully integrate and become full citizens, but also a desire to know more about their ethnic origins. The post-migrant subjects are haunted by aspects that single them out, their difference, but which also connect them most intimately to their parents, and their parents’ past. I suggest that the way in which this complex subject-position is negotiated and resolved in the novel is closely connected to a notion of melancholia as a creative or performative way of coming to terms with a secondary loss.


1. Introduction
 2. Narrative Problematics
 3. Secondary Loss
 4. Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club
 5. Conclusion
 Works Cited


  • Sorensen, Eli Park Seoul National University


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