Taiwan is in danger of becoming the last isle, losing its sovereignty and identity. The Last Isle opens from where Taiwan film scholarship leaves off—the 1980s Taiwan New Cinema, focusing on relatively unknown contemporary films that are “unglobalizable,” such as Cape No. 7, Island Etude, Din Tao, and Seven Days in Heaven. It explores Taiwan films’ inextricability with trauma theory, the irony of loving and mourning Taiwan, multilingualism, local beliefs, and theatrical practices, including Ang Lee’s “white” films. The second half of the book analyzes Taiwan’s popular culture in Western-style food and drink, conditions over living and dying, and English education, concluding with the source of Taiwan’s anxiety—China.
This book distinguishes itself from Taiwan scholarship in its stylistic crazy quilt of the scholarly interwoven with the personal, evidenced right from the outset in the poetic title “The Last Isle,” coupled with the “dissertating” subtitle. This approach intertwines the helix of reason and affect, scholarship and emotion. The Last Isle accomplishes a look at globalization from the bottom up, from a global Taiwan whose very existence is in doubt.
Acknowledgments / Figures / Introduction / 1. Trauma and Taiwan’s Melodrama: Seven Orphans of Cape No. 7 / 2. Island’s Irony: Virtual Pilgrimage Circum-Taiwan in Search of the High Cs / 3. Mazu’s Touch, Taiwan Nezha and Crying / 4. Globalization’s Bottom: Subtitle and Switch in Wang Yu-Lin’s Taiwanese Dialect Films / 5. Wet Umbrella and The White Snake / 6. Hyde-and-Seek in Asian Diaspora: Deann Borshay Liem’s Negative and Ang Lee’s Ventriloquy / 7. Sold Mountain: Chinese-Language Films on Shangri-La / 8. Nestle in Shalu / 9. Taiwan’s English Education: A Fish with Three Heads / 10. The Fate of Accidental Taiwanese: 5 Ways to Leave Your Father / Coda: China Laying Golden Eggs / Bibliography / Index
Sheng-mei Ma's " The Last Isle" is an engaging look at Taiwan's never-ending trauma through the lens of film, trauma, and popular culture. Ma does a masterful job of bringing together voluminous amounts of scattered information, carefully analyzed with an abundance of allusions to historical and contemporary phenomena, and presented with poetic-like prose.
Sheng-mei Ma is Professor of English at Michigan State University.