Generic weaving, comic fantasy, and Buddhism in Maxine Hong Kingston's Tripmaster monkey

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Texas Tech University

This study strives to explore the ways in which Chinese cultural and artistic traditions such as Buddhism, the narrative rhetoric of talk-stories, comic fantasies, and generic weaving are appropriated and transformed in Maxine Kingston's novel Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book. My study does not valorize any of the prevalent critical approaches that make it easy to highlight such issues as gender, identity, masculinity, and ethnic politics, not because I think that these issues are becoming less important nowadays, but because I believe that without delving seriously into Chinese cultural and artistic traditions, critics cannot hope to achieve a full understanding of these issues as handled in Chinese American literature or a full understanding of Maxine Hong Kingston's grand and profound cross-cultural movement and negotiation. 1 am aware that my study occurs just at the time when research of Asian American literature is torn between two impulses: to view Asian American literature as gestures to claim America for Asian Americans or to present it as a case of cultural transposition or globalization of literatures. To me, Maxine Kingston's novel appears as a compromise of these two conflicting impulses and presents a challenge to the Western literary theories.

Underlining the grand image of a magic monkey that Maxine Kingston has grafted from Chinese literature and embodied in her own hippie-protagonist. Buddhism stands at the center of my study for four reasons: it works together with pacifism as the ultimate theme in Maxine Kingston's novel; it encourages cross-generic and cross-cultural movements; it offers the human mind a paramount status in the face of a material world; and finally, the novel itself is a confluence of Buddhist subtexts. Intended to elucidate Maxine Kingston's unique interpretation of the 1960s' counterculture and her effort to create a new artistic consciousness, my study also highlights the Buddhist notion of mental flux in contrast to the western notion of streams of consciousness and explores the significance of Maxine Kingston's combination of the communal form of talk-stories with the Western techniques of characterization (365 pages).

Kingston, Maxine Hong. Tripmaster monkey, Kingston, Maxine Hong -- Criticism and interpretation, Buddhism in literature