That "Willful" Migrant Adulteress: Female Embodiment and Diasporic Melancholia in Chandani Lokuge's Softly, as I Leave You

Emily Yu Zong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Sri-Lankan Australian writer Chandani Lokugé’s novel Softly, As I Leave You (2011) presents a female troublemaker: she is a narcissistic woman, an unfaithful wife, an ungrateful migrant, and a controlling migrant mother. Drawing on Sara Ahmed’s notion of the “willful,” this article examines the gendered and raced embodiment in the novel, considering how the migrant woman’s willfulness is precisely a reflection of her lack of will power in the social field. By applying the concept of the gaze, the article unpacks the phenomenology of the female migrant subject that is fragmented by discursive tropes of exotic erotica, sentimental love, and diasporic melancholia, illustrating the ways in which the willful woman’s imaginary means of empowerment actually perpetuates her subordination. Lokugé’s dramatization of an individual’s failed imaginary defiance, I argue, involves mobilizing willful bodies as a political narrative strategy that offers possibilities for not only minority resistance, but also reclaiming diasporic femininity and cultural hybridity through social roles and place-attachments that express minority self-creation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCritique - Studies in Contemporary Fiction
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Mar 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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