The Colonial Palimpsest in Taiwanese Literature

Wei-Ting Liou

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The thesis investigates the multi-layered colonial history of Taiwanese literature using the concept of the colonial palimpsest and drawing examples from the period of Japanese Rule to the present. The thesis concerns the construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of a Taiwanese subjectivity. I also explore relevant issues in relation to historiography, cultural nationalism, and the State powers so as to re-picture the narrative of Taiwanese literature, diachronically, and synchronically.
In the Introduction, an outline of the history of Taiwan, and the theories of Pierre Bourdieu are discussed. In Chapter One, the layered cultural nationalism of Taiwan is presented and examined. In Chapter Two, I take Wu Zhuoliu's writing to exemplify how the colonial palimpsest has worked in relation to Wu during the transitional periods of the Qing Governance, Japanese Rule, and the KMT regime. In Chapter Three, I examine how the 2-28 Incident has shaped an essential part of the cultural nationalism in Taiwanese literature, and conversely, how the newly-formed 2-28 Literature palimpsestically and dialectically narrated this national trauma. The legitimate Mei chunniang is used to inspect the relationship between literary production and state power. In Chapter Four, Combat Literature, Modernist Literature, and Nativist Literature are examined, demonstrating how Taiwanese subjectivity developed in the immigrant Chinese literary field in Taiwan. The Chinese diasporic writer Bai Xianyong’s highly-praised Taipei People is re-examined in regard to Taiwanese perspectives during the Taiwanese Nativist Literary Debate. In Chapter Five, the emergence of Indigenous Literature during Taiwan’s post-martial-law period is discussed along with problematic Han-centric Chinese and Taiwanese nationalism, as exemplified by the indigenous writer Syman Rapongan’s writing. Finally, Zhu Tianxin’s writing and her Juancun background are discussed in the Epilogue as another dimension of the colonial palimpsest.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hampson, Robert, Supervisor
Award date1 Oct 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • postcolonialism
  • Taiwanese literature
  • palimpsest
  • literature
  • colonialism
  • nationalism
  • Pierre Bourdieu

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