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Lost in Translation


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Table of Contents

1. The Enigmatic Signifier
2. The Shanghai Gesture
3. The Chinatown Syndrome
4. The Great Wall
5. The Lost Girls

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An examination of how the fantasy of an inscrutable East has functioned in Hollywood cinema

About the Author

Homay King is Associate Professor of Art History at Bryn Mawr College.


"The Orient is not just a cast of stereotypes but a visual world as well. With brilliance and gorgeous prose, Homay King uncovers the mise-en-scene of Orientalism and the cinema. She examines what is at stake when 'Asia' comes to stand in for an unintelligible alterity--an enigmatic signifier--that animates our psychic lives. Elegant and sophisticated, this tour de force sets a new standard for film theory, visual culture, psychoanalysis, and studies of race."--David L. Eng, author of The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy "With Lost in Translation, her powerful analysis of Asia as an 'enigmatic signifier' for those who inhabit 'the West,' Homay King stages a compelling encounter between psychoanalytic theory, especially as reformulated in the texts of Jean Laplanche, and the politics of racial, national, and ethnic representation. Identifying East and West alike as sites of internal alterity, this smart, provocative, and persuasive book resists the familiar reductiveness of multiculturalist piety in order to insist on the ongoing work of finding ourselves, no less than our others, as always already in translation."--Lee Edelman, author of No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive "Lost in Translation explores a wide range of films, ranging from the silent to contemporary independent cinema, and from Hollywood noir to European documentaries, through which King argues that the Chinatowns, Tokyos, and Shanghais in these films are often dumping grounds for dead letters, overdetermined icons, and mutterings that belong to no dialect in particular. To King, these signifiers, having neither clear senders nor obvious recipient, seem to lie outside of rational systems of knowledge and communication. Diverting readers' attention from characters and human actors to a film's mise-en-scene and decor (such as Asian figurines, an origami unicorn, or a Chinese box), Lost in Translation is a book about visual objects and riddles and those enigmatic signifiers' roles of generating an overall sense of unknowns." - Lin Feng, Scope, Issue 24, October 2012

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