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Configuring the Future in Vietnamese Francophone: Readings of Marguerite Duras, Pham Duy Khiêm, and Kim Lefèvre

Thursday, May 13, 2021 at 12:30pm

Virtual Event

Part of the Ronald and Janette Gatty Lecture series

Vinh Phu Pham, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature, Cornell University

As a field of study, Vietnamese Francophone literature is a historically specific phenomenon that does not fit neatly within the broader framework of postcolonial literatures. On a pragmatic level, it is a limited literary traditionthat continues to diminish each day due to the waning significance of the French language within Vietnam, withless than 1% of the population still fluent, and among the diasporic Vietnamese communities abroad. Because of this trend, readings of this corpus tended to have primarily been framed within the nostalgic mode, or as a literature that once was, rather than something that is still alive.The unintended consequence of these readings is a premature foreclosure on whatever other possible readings there might be. Confronted with the reality that this tradition might soon evaporate, one of my central concerns has to do with the question of what it means to work within an archive where the production of the cultural objects themselves must reconcile with the very possibility oftheir own effacement? Or more concretely, what will happen to Vietnamese Francophone if there is no Vietnamese audience to receive it?My goal, therefore, is not to predict the future vitality of this body of work, since such predictions always fall short, but to pose a hypothetical of whether one might be able to read some of these novels against the grain of unlikely futurity, as dictated by secondary criticism. Inmy reading of three novels by Marguerite Duras, Pham Duy Khiem, and Kim Lefèvre, I propose that it is indeed possible to locate a yet-to-come future within these works, or a conscious effort of the authors in moving towards something other, ratherthan a singular longing for the colonial past. Paying close attention to their representation of romance and historical transmission, I suggest that these works were intended to be read for many future generations, even when that future appears bleak.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, History, Romance Studies, Comparative Literature, Southeast Asia Program, Asian & Asian American Center



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Vinh Phu Pham

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Cornell University

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