Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type

M.A. Essay

First Advisor

James Dorsey

Second Advisor

Sachi Schmidt-Hori


This paper examines two pieces of fiction that foregrounds an Asian woman’s reading of western literature, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2000) by Chinese-French writer Sijie Dai and “Persona” (1993) by Japanese-German writer Yoko Tawada. These female readers are positioned on an overdetermined “margin”: their femininity defines them as either wanting of cultural enlightenment or inadequate to engage with the canon; their foreignness renders the reading process to be either superficial or torturing; however, it is also this marginal position that constitutes a unique approach to building their world through literature, that is, a perspective that neither align them with the imperialist ideology, nor confine them to a national consciousness. This paper provides a countering framework of reading-as-worlding against orientalism from the perspective of East Asian women–how they develop their own sense of cosmopolitanism via engagement with foreign literature and how they modify and uphold this sense of cosmopolitanism in the increasingly globalized space. By putting these two texts together, I want to pinpoint the act of reading as an encounter with the cultural other, which insufficiently illuminates the knowledge of the other, yet heuristically leads towards an exploration into one’s self.

Available for download on Wednesday, June 03, 2026