Sharing Worlds through Words: Minor Cosmopolitics in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being


  • Hsiu-chuan Lee National Taiwan Normal University


cosmopolitics, Asian American literature, quantum mechanics, time, Ruth Ozeki


This article reads Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (2013) as a text that responds to the radical global interconnectedness of today’s world. In the first section I coin the term minor cosmopolitics and explain its indebtedness to, as well as differentiation from, “minority cosmopolitism” and “minor transnationalism,” with a view to conceiving the world-making potentials of minoritized individuals as illustrated in the novel. The second section deliberates on another minor dimension of cosmopolitics. Through a close analysis of the reading-writing relationship between the novel’s two protagonists Ruth and Nao, I highlight the importance of the energy and matter of small scale, in particular those embedded in the words of literary imagination, in an active engagement with a scale as large as the world. Specifically, A Tale for the Time Being resorts to quantum mechanics and takes words as quantum particles to illuminate the plasticity and multiplicity of space and time. Instead of aiming at a position of transcendence over the world, the novel tests out the possibilities to deliver, through words, worlds out of historical ignorance and amnesia in light of the quantum rules of randomness and undecidability.

Author Biography

Hsiu-chuan Lee, National Taiwan Normal University

Hsiu-chuan Lee is a Professor in the Department of English at National Taiwan Normal University. She authors Re-Siting Routes: Japanese American Travels in the Case of Cynthia Kadohata and David Mura (2003), and is the translator of Toni Morrison’s Sula into Chinese (2008). Her essays on Asian American studies, Toni Morrison, and psychoanalysis  appear in journals such as Mosaic, Amerasia, Concentric, EurAmerica, Tamkang Review, Chung Wai Literary Quarterly, Review of English and American Literature and Studies in Modern Fiction, among others.