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Date 2021-03-17


How to Do a History of Homosexuality in Literature: 1960s Taiwan


Chi, Ta-Wei

Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Chengchi University


While homosexuality is found in documentary materials on Taiwan in the first half of the twentiethcentury, it was not clearly represented in local literature until the 1960s. This article responds to and supplements David Halperin’s work in How to Do the History of Homosexuality, which is Eurocentric, male-centric, and focused on history per se rather than on literary productions. The article intends less to construct a history of homosexual literature─as if the category of “homosexual literature” were some sort of given─than to consider how the persons, desires, acts, and knowledge of homosexuality are produced in a literary history by analyzing key works in the Taiwan of the 1960s. Although Kenneth Pai is widely acknowledged to be a pioneer of representing homosexuality, it is in fact a mistake, though a common one, to reiterate Pai as the only seminal writer of sexual dissidence in Taiwan. The 1960s featured other seminal writers, whose contributions to our knowledge of homosexuality must be recognized along with Pai’s. The plurality of the 1960s is found not only in the temporal coincidence of Pai with other writers but also in the cooperation of local authors with literary critics such as C. T. Hsia, a mentor figure to Pai’s generation, who detects signs of homosexuality in local literature. The subjectivities found in 1960s literature are also more pluralistic than presumed. Whereas some characters in 1960s fiction resemble today’s self-sufficient subjects of homosexuality, more figures are elusive subject-effects of homosexuality that demand more attention in contemporary LGBT studies in and on Taiwan.

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Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature