3
A FABLE OF EXQUISITE CORPSES
Maxine Hong Kingston, Assimilation,
and the Hypochondriacal Response

Hypochondria: Gr. hupokhondria, pl. of hupokhondrion, abdomen (held to be the seat of melancholia)

American Heritage Dictionary

Rodgers and Hammerstein's dream world teaches the racially melancholic female body to enjoy the lessons of its own rejection.At the same time, as already seen, the effects produced by the various performances of that renunciation often exceed and disrupt the meaning of the intended castigation. This history that we are tracing gives us much more than a record of unresolved briefs, but also a revelation of transformative potentials within grief. The project of examining this cultural and psychical history of renunciation may ultimately lead us, not toward the ambition of "resolved grief," as envisioned by Freud, but rather toward redefining a profoundly different notion of mourning altogether.

Turning away from the theatrical imagining of an Asia America on the stage of Rodgers and Hammerstein in the early sixties to "real," contemporary Asian America, we encounter hypochondria in one of the most well‐ known representative texts of Asian American literature, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts ( 1979). One aspect of this much-read text that remains unexamined or even mentioned is the problem of self-aversion and nostalgia in its racial self‐ representation.The narrator's nostalgia for yet allergy to her own racialized body reveals hypochondria to be a form of melancholic self-allergy. That is, melancholia is linked to hypochondria, not only etymologically but symptomatically. Indeed, we can think of the Freudian melancholic as someone hypochondriacally aware of and allergic to the abjection lodged within.

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