Theresa Cha's Dictee read as a Layered Account Autoethnography



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Theresa Hak Kyung Cha was a Korean American artist who was born in Busan, South Korea, and moved to the United States when she was eleven. Her magnum opus was Dictee, an experimental multimedia and multilingual text that brings together images and language, English, French, and Korean, to talk about topics such as language and oppression, colonialism, missing bodies, religion, and feminism. This work is part of the Asian American literary canon, and is extensively written about to this day. My research dealt with my intepretation of Dictee's genre. Genres are used by readers to set expectations on a certain text. By reading a work with a certain genre in mind, it can affect the way readers see and understand parts of the text. For Dictee, different classifications in genre lead to different interpretations of the punctuation in Dictee, the identity of the narrator (called the diseuse), and the meaning of the use of broken text. In my literature review, I argued how Dictee's genre was a layered account autoethnography. Autoethnographies are texts that questioning the individual, coherent self, and often use a “stream of consciousness” commonly used in postmodern works. The term “layered-account” was first coined by Carol Renai, who believed in the use of different voices to address, reason with, and cope with different traumas in one body. By reading Dictee as a layered voice autoethnography, it paints Dictee in the light of a suffering individual who tries to speak about the trauma of imperialism in Korea.