Dictee Background

Dictee Background

Dictee is a 1982 novel by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, a South Korean-American author. It is considered her best, most prominent work, focusing on the experiences of specific iconic, powerful women over the years, as well as a more personal part delving into her mother and her own life.

The main theme of Dictee is the way that nations, and nationalism manifests into daily lives. The "book" is split into 9 sections recalling the Greek muses, including: Clio, Calliope, Urania, Melpomene, Erato, Elitere, Thalia, Terpischore, and Polymnia. The structure of Dictee is a widely remarked upon thing; it is composed of introspective ponderings, letters, uncaptioned photographs, and visual exposition. Thus, many scholars debate upon whether it is really a book as it a compilation of thought. Nevertheless, Dictee tells a compelling, mesmerizing narrative through its unorthodox structure, making it Cha's most known work.

Dictee was positively received. One reviewer from Spin Magazine described it as "[enlarging] the notion of what a book is...because it is ephemeral, fragile, fierce, and indelible, because it is subversive, because it yearns and is luminous."

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