Close reading on Dictee’s passage


“Dead words. Dead tongue. From disuse. Buried in Time’s memory. Unemployed. Unspoken. History. Past. Let the one who is diseuse, one who is mother who waits nine days and nine nights be found. Restore memory. Let the one who is diseuse, one who is daughter restore spring with her each appearance from beneath the earth. The ink spills thickest before it runs dry before it stops writing at all (Cha, 133). I chose this passage from the Lyric chapter of Dictee for specific reasons.
As I was reading though the novel, I noticed that Cha Throughout the novel, we see Cha talking about the forces of life and death and also in this particular passage.Cha reveals that language is “buried,” “unspoken,” “dead,” and “past.” The quote, “ Let the one who is diseuse, one who is daughter restore spring with her each appearance from beneath the earth” shows that Demeter will restore life when her daughter will return and she will be able to bring Spring again. I also feel that the word “ink” is symbolizing the life but unfortunately when ink runs out we see that death is taking place. I feel that author views this as the cycle of life and death since she did starts with “dead words” and then moves to Spring time when Persephone returns and then the ink ran out and therefore the writing stopped. It constantly move sin a circular motion. By using Demeter, I think the author did an outstanding job since she represents fertility, a woman who gives life.
Another thing that I noticed is that like the rest of the book, this passage is also lacking punctuation. She simply avoids herself from using too many commas which can separate her thoughts in each sentence. Instead she chose to write like this and keep moving on and on and on…I also feel that much of her writing makes us think that there should be more interpretation of the topic in order to understand since the author doesn’t clearly discuss the topics.
Another fact is that Cha has multiple identities:daughter, woman, Korean-American. Christian. From her writing, I feel Cha first considers her identity as a female. Then Korean-American and then considers herself as Christian who speaks multiple languages. From all these identities, I still feel that she considered herself as a daughter to be at the center.
It is also interesting that we can easily make connections with this particular passage since its the mother and daughter’s relationship. This connection can be universal and every women can apply to it. We can also look at this relationship as mother country and its citizen. Here a mother country is able to nurture an environment in which the citizen can discover its true identity.
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3 Responses to Close reading on Dictee’s passage

  1. altaeus says:

    I certainly agree with the idea that Cha’s writing often links to death, time, and renewal. This symbolism, I think, points to a connection she feels with the past. The mere fact that she uses the different Greek muses as a symbolism despite her Korean-American heritage, I believe, tells about the timelessness of the same spirit that existed before us, and that continues well after us.

    I don’t know if this was to be considered as a work Cha might have expected to have a literary analysis on. Perhaps a hybrid art-literary analysis, because it is part journal and part prose. The journal part of this work represents the inner sanctum of the mind, one not originally meant for the eyes of the world. When one writes for the self, it is not presumably necessary to speak every phrase, word, and punctuation out, is it? By that, I mean how writing to yourself does not need as much effort to convey the message you’re thinking of, because it’s there, in your head. One can make sense of what one writes, regardless of the oddity, because one can connect the dots that one put out in the first place. It’s also partly made of stories on other historical figures, so that may play a role in why the words are “dead” or “buried in time.” Perhaps Cha’s musings on identity is based on a resonance between similar figures from the past? She certainly looks to a Korean figure, and her mother – both female, which is, as you said, possibly what Cha considers to be her first identity. Regarding the artistic aspect of this work, perhaps this is also something she might have wished to be appreciated as much as dissected as a literary work.

  2. hwerblow100 says:

    I think this is a very interesting close reading of this passage from Dictee. You make some very important observations that I think helps to understand the text as a whole. I particularly like how you relate the life and death cycle to a woman’s fertility. You also relate to her structure of the passage and choice of punctuation as a representation of her own identities. I love your idea behind the word “ink” as a metaphor for life. I never thought of it that way, you are absolutely right. Very clever analogy at the end to an as you put it, “mother country” and her citizens. This definitely relates to what we said in class about her relationship to her mother and trying to revive her mother’s identity by creating a new self for her. Very nice post!

  3. After reading your post, it has helped to give me a better understanding of this book. I didnt look at it the same way that you did, but after reading your post I totally understand what you are saying. I agree with Heather, I too like your idea about the word “ink” as a metaphor for life. I thnk that this is a very interesting point. You have made some very good points here, thank you for this post!

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