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

Hsiu-chuan Lee


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.


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

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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