David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly (1988), the first play written by an Asian American playwright to win the Tony Awards, remains his most renowned and controversial play. The play has been criticized for catering to mainstream discourse for reproducing the rather negative “Dragon Lady” stereotype in the name of subverting the “Madame Butterfly” stereotype. However, with the unreliable narration, the play connotes dual narrative dynamics which creates great aesthetic tension and powerful ironic effect. But such a rhetorical device has, to some extent, also led to the alienation between the play’s representing strategies and the implied author’s intention, which results in heated scholarly debates and misreading. In 2017, the play was revised by Hwang and restaged on Broadway. The revival not only incorporates the Chinese folklore of Butterfly Lovers but also gives more voice to the Asian protagonist who has been silenced in the original version, in order to more explicitly counter the unreliable narrator’s Western centric narrative, which helps establish a more complex character image. The revival further exposes the obstinacy of racist mentality and Orientalist narrative discourse in American mainstream culture, responding to the misreading and criticisms on the original version in ways that advance with the times. Through different narrative strategies in the two versions of M. Butterfly, Hwang tries to guide the audience to get rid of the racist paradigm to better understand the representing strategies and ethics of Asian American literatures.


Butterfly Lovers, counter-narration, ethical dilemma, M. Butterfly, unreliable narration

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
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University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)