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Women, Consumption and Popular Culture (Vol. 4 No. 1); Life, Community, and Ethics (Vol. 4. No. 2)

The Making of Barbarians in Western Literature (Vol. 5 No. 1); Chaos and Fear in Contemporary British Literature (Vol. 5 No. 2)

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Affective Perspectives from East Asia (Vol. 9 No. 2); Longing and Belonging (Vol. 10 No. 2, produced in collaboration with the European Network for Comparative Literary Studies)

Transatlantic Literary and Cultural Relations, 1776 to the Present (Vol. 11 No. 2). 


Madagascar, in Shao-ling Chu’s A Song of the Sad Coffee Shop (1996), is the symbol of freedom for the young, divorced protagonist Mathi. Working in the highly modernized Taipei city, Mathi believes the city’s visible and invisible confinements result in her lethargy and aimlessness in life. In Mathi’s daydreaming, Madagascar becomes Taiwan’s counterpart, its enlarged self and its lost conscience. She finally sets out in quest of freedom in the desert of Madagascar where she believes the ultimate symbolic sign of self-identity and the idealistic concept of freedom in life converge.

In this paper, I would like to examine firstly the close semiotic connection and signification between the sign of freedom and the signification of the geographical and economic situations of Madagascar as Taiwan’s “reflection of the mirror,” and secondly I would address Mathi’s detour in Taiwan and her quest for freedom in Madagascar as experiences of crossing liminal spaces (Gennep, Turner) that prepare and initiate her to a broader sense of inter-subjective relationship. After passing this liminal phase, Mathi at last approaches the resolution to her traumatic puzzlement in life through her final realization of nature’s extreme “non-interference” delineated in theintermittent episodes of liminal spaces as significant semiotic sign process of social, cultural and special crossings in A Song of the Sad Coffee Shop’s textual narrative.

KEY WORDS: semiotic connection, liminal spaces, identity, freedom, Madagascar, A Song of the Sad Coffee Shop, Arnold van Gennep, Victor W. Turner