Asian American Literature

English 372 / Asian American Short Prose, Drama, and Film

(DL) (WI & O)

TR 12-1:15 pm

Professor R. Hsu /


This course focuses on the work of actors, artists, architects, playwrights, and filmmakers of Asian ancestry, who were born in and live primarily in the United States and who engage with the many complex versions of “America” and “American identity”. AA artists draw from multiple cultural and historical heritages beyond those of North America. The class will examine these artists’ portrayal of the exclusion and internment of Asian Americans, and the creative as well as mundane forms of resistance and transgression against exclusion and other externally imposed limits.

We’ll be reading innovative, convention-busting, and provocative texts, for example, the against-all-odds film career of Anna May Wong in the first half of the twentieth-century, the work of artist, Cyrus Wong, when he worked at early Disney, most notably on Bambi; excerpts from a novel on the transformational 1960’s, the Civil Rights Movement; architects who have re-defined the topographical discourse of the United States; and award-winning, non-linear, and polyvocal plays and films –both comedy and tragedy—that can be humorous, painful, and thought-provoking.

Procedure:     This class is structured to be primarily a large- and small-group discussion class; films must be viewed outside of classroom sessions; written feedback on papers; mandatory individual consultations on paper.

Required assignments include:        completing reading and viewing assignments before class; a bi-weekly blog post on the reading assignments; three 5 to 10-minite class presentations; one research-based essay. Amount of writing must be min. of 4000 words or 16 pages.

Required texts include (films; drama; excerpts of books)::

Charlie Chan in Honolulu (film; H. Bruce Humberstone)

Kim’s Convenience (sit-com; Canada; on Netflix; Ins Choi and Kevin White)

David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly; Chinglish (plays)

Wedding Banquet; Brokeback Mountain (films; Ang Lee)

Josephine Lee, editor. Asian American Plays for a New Generation.

Better Luck Tomorrow. (film; Justin Lin)

Bitter Melon (film; H.P. Mendoza)

Karen Tei Yamashita, Anime Wong. Fictions of Performance. (plays, performance pieces)

Joy Luck Club; Chan Is Missing; Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart (films; Wayne Wang)

Helen Zia, Asian American Dreams

Student Learning Outcomes (SLO):

  • Gain an understanding of shared themes as well as the heterogeneity of Asian American plays, films, and art;
  • Gain an understanding of the ways that Asian American cultural texts and identity transform, complement and otherwise engage with differing “Americas”;
  • Enhance the ability to think, to discuss and to write independently about literary and cultural texts.