Asian AM Lit & Theory: Culture & Self-Representatn (CSAP/LSE/AP)

This course examines the formation and evolution of
Asian American literary and cultural representations within the context of an
American nationalistic and neoliberal discursive formation that hinges on the hegemony
of national “exceptionalism” and constructions of gender, racial and ethnic
identity. The reading list encourages critical engagement with both primary
texts (for example, fiction, poetry, or films) and scholarship that seeks to
frame Asian American cultural production within the larger national
socio-ideological context and beyond. Particular attention will be paid to the
ways that more recent cultural narratives appear to intersect with the changing
geo-political and global economical ‘realities’ of the 21st century.

Please be prepared to undertake close reading of
both primary and theoretical texts. Items on the reading list might be examined
in terms of specific historical and discursive contexts and intertextuality.

The class might focus on questions such as: In what
ways have Asian American cultural productions (for example, literature, movies,
documentaries, political protests, scholarship) attempted to engage with the
larger nationalistic discourse? What have been recurrent narrative themes in
Asian American cultural and literary texts that reflect the dialectics of minority
group self-representation in relation to the U.S. and, particularly, in
relation to the economic, political and historical arena of Asia/Pacific? What
other equally important forms of Asian American self-representation have been
set aside in the process of ethnic identity formation in various hegemonic
arenas? How have literary and cultural studies in this area contributed to the
formation of a pan-ethnic Asian American identity and in what ways is this
identity category changing in the 21st century?

initial cluster of texts comes under the heading “Narratives by and of Asian
Americans”. These readings examine the economic, legal and cultural matrix that
formed the discursive condition of the early stages of the construction of an
Asian American ethnic identity (approximately 1880’s to World War II).

next set of readings, “Narrating the future,” looks at Asian American ethnic
identity formation in the 1960’s and 1970’s in both creative texts as well as
in the academy. What were the significant debates among and between artists and
scholars? To what extent were these debates sufficiently reflective of the
changing demographics and political economy of Asia/America? How might we
locate those debates in relation to the current vantage point?

and Asia America in the Asia/Pacific,” the third cluster of texts, looks at recent
Asian America writings for the stage, in science fiction, and cyberspace. In the
readings for parts 2 and 3, the class will examine much more critically the
ideas of nation, race, and ethnicity. How might we understand textual
representations of and by Asian Americans within the larger global context at a
time when national identity is undergoing pressure to be re-defined and when
national, political borders are being tested or, rather, made much more selectively

course strongly encourages the formulation of new questions regarding this area
of study.

Course requirements:

  1. Essay — 15- to 20-page essay on a substantial topic
  2. Leading Class
    Discussion — Class members will be responsible for leading two class
    discussions on a specific work (1-page single-spaced handout)
  3. Field trip (1-page
    single-spaced analysis of field trip)

Readings may include:

Cluster 1:

Primary Texts:

  1. Excerpts
    from The Big AIIIEEEEE! (1991);
  2. Selected
    writings of Edith Eaton (1890’s) (“first” Asian American writer);
  3. “Asian’’
    subject in silent movies and pre-World War II, recent Hollywood and indie movies;
  4. Bulason,
    America is in the Heart (1946) (excerpt);

Secondary Texts:

  1. Chan,
    Remapping Asian American History (2003) (introduction)
  2. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett,
    “A Second Life as Heritage—Ellis Island”
  3. Cheng,
    The Melancholy of Race (2001) (excerpt);
  4. Palumbo-Liu,
    Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier (1999) (excerpts)

Cluster 2:

Primary Texts:

  1. Kogawa,
    Obasan (1982) (internment)
  2. Roots:
    an Asian American Reader
    (1971) (excerpt)
  3. Maya
    Lin and the Vietnam War Memorial Controversy (video)
  4. Ed
    Lin, Waylaid
    (2002) (novella)
  5. Poetry by Sarith Peou, Ed
    Bok Lee, Jai Arun Ravine


  1. Bennett,
    Birth of the Museum (1995) (introduction)
  2. Eng,
    Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (2001) (selection)

Cluster 3:

Primary Texts:

  1. Yamashita,
    I Hotel
    (2010) (novel)
  2. Take
    Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America
    (2000) (selections)
  3. Lee,
    The Surrendered
    (2010) (novel)
  4. Linmark,
    R. Zamora, Leche

Secondary Texts:

  1. Omi
    and Winant, Racial Formation in the United States. From the 1960s to the
    1994 (selections)
  2. Gilroy,
    Against Race
  3. Dirlik, “Asia Pacific studies in an age of global modernity”