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For the French or Korean dictation exercise, "Dictée", see Dictation.

Dictee is a 1982 novel, by author Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Considered to be the magnum opus of Cha, the book focuses on several women: the Korean revolutionary Yu Guan Soon, Joan of Arc, Demeter and Persephone, Cha's mother Hyun Soon Huo, and Cha herself, who are linked by their struggles and the way that nations have affected and twisted their lives.

Publication History[edit]

The book was first published in 1982, the same year Cha was murdered, but since audiences struggled to connect to the experimental writing style, the book went out of print. In 1997 due to resurgence in popularity for Asian American studies and Third-wave Feminism, as well visibility caused by the compilation of the 1992 “Writing Self Writing Nation” book of essays regarding Dictee, the book was brought back into print by Norma Alarcón and Third Woman Press.[1]


Dictée has a very unorthodox structure, and consists of descriptions of the struggle to speak, uncaptioned photographs, tellings of the lives of saints and patriots, and mysterious letters that seem not to relate to the other material. In Dictee, Cha “borrows from avant garde techniques such as jagged cuts, jump shots, and visual exposition,” based off her experience in the video and performing arts.[2] The work “deviates from genres, themes, and styles” and fails to fit a single descriptor or label with clarity.[3] It has been described as auto-ethnography, due to its highly subjective view of heritage and the past.

Dictée is organized into nine parts, a structure that arises from the nine Greek muses.


  1. ^ Lewallen, Constance (2001). The Dream of the Audience: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951-1982). University of California Press. 
  2. ^ Anlin Cheng, Anne (2001). The Melancholy of Race. Oxford University Press. 
  3. ^ Yi Kang, Hyun; Kim, Elaine H.; Lowe, Lisa; Sunn Wong, Shelley (1994). Writing Self, Writing Nation: A Collection of Essays on Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Third Women Press. 

External links[edit]