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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 23, Issue 1/4, 2007

Semiotics in the Chinese Umwelt

Hsiu-chih Tsai
Pages 277-301

The Semiotic Structuration of Home and Identity in A Song of the Sad Coffee Shop

This paper deals with the function of metonymy in A Song of the Sad Coffee Shop (1996), a novel by Taiwan’s woman writer Shao-lin Chu (b. 1966). For my reading of the novel’s narrative, I should like to appropriate a Jakobsonian understanding of metaphoric and metonymic functions. This approach will hopefully help in analyzing the significance of the protagonist’s quest for identification in her trip to Madagascar, in which the juxtaposition of places of similar geographical features works to construct a contiguity between them, and goes on to achieve a rapprochement of mind and body in the practice and process of philosophical cultivation. The protagonist’s trip, as a quest for home and identity, through the metonymic power of identification and localization, finally calls into question the fixity of the concept of home and homeland, the expedition itself turning into a mysterious journey of self-cultivation and home-coming.

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