Artists of the Floating World – Chapter 4

The reading this week got me thinking a lot about patriarchal societies. For so long, I believed that as a country, we could move away from the idea of having a patriarchy, but recent events have left me a bit hopeless. I was really fascinated by the idea that Mukherjee was moving from one patriarchal society into another. I never really looked at it that way until the text stated, “Contrarily, there are critics who decry Mukherjee‘s turn towards an ―assimilationist‖ standpoint. Her characters, in the process of becoming Americanized, lose agency and power; indeed, at worst, she has merely swapped one  form of patriarchal embrace (that of her native India)  for another  (that of  her  adopted  United  States)” (84). It’s even more fascinating to me to think of it in terms of The Holder of the World where the reverse seems to happen and Hannah’s journey starts in America.

Mukherjee’s characters are floating between seemingly different worlds, but they are worlds more similar than we believe them to be. I did think it was fascinating when Burton pointed out that, “Similarly,  in  her  story-lines,  patriarchal  figures  are  deliberately murdered  or  renounced,  as  the  following  brief  plot  summaries  will demonstrate” (85). There is a clear rejection of patriarchy on her part. Burton goes on to point out that Mukherjee went through a rejection in her own life as she moved away from being under the patriarchal thumb of her father and moved on into adulthood.

I’m also liking that Burton’s work is reintroducing theoretical approaches, such as Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak, that I have learned, but in a new, understanding light. I do have to wonder about whether or not the “subaltern” can speak and the type of power they have if they do.

The section on terrorism was interesting, too, and it raises a point of whether or not violent acts of terror can accomplish the same thing as textual expressions and where the line is for subaltern nonconformity. I think, although one end is extreme, that it is an interesting area to explore and I will be curious to see what our class does with it.