Introduction to Literature: Culture & Literature: Asian American Lit and New Media

Asian American Identity in Postmodernist Literature and an Anime

Course Description 

Can “reality” be represented in any ultimately trustworthy way? What does “realistic” mean in the novel to you, and how are “realistic” characters portrayed? What makes them real in relation to us? In this class, we will be exploring contemporary literature and postmodernist literature, and how it relates to “Asian American” as a socially constructed identity. Postmodernist writing challenges us as readers to be the spectators and the co-creators of meaning within the text, rather than passive readers. It challenges us to interrogate assumptions that revolve around culture and history. It eschews a stagnant and absolute meaning as truth, emphasizes play within the text, fragmentation, intertextuality, and metafiction. The text is a refusal of a single version of reality. It is the collapse of the hierarchy which exists between high culture and popular culture, a collapse between art, and “realistic” portrayals of everyday life. 

Postmodernism in literary theory is vast, each author approaching the genre in their own, unique way. Generally, here are the most prominent features which define a postmodern text: (a) metaficitonal, or a work of writing that calls attention to itself as a constructed, aesthetic artifact (b) an implicit or explicit critique of how “realistic” is represented in a constructed or fictional world (c) the tendency to draw the reader’s attention to their own subjective processes of interpretation of a text through defamiliarization, fragmentation, and/or textual play and (d) resistance to the idea of a single, ultimate “Truth” seeking truthfulness instead. 

In this class, we will be exploring how Asian American authors adopted Postmodernism and how postmodernist works begin to dismantle stereotypes generally attributed to the Asian American identity, a fluid, unstable label. We will be reading both fiction and nonfiction works. Finally, we will end the semester by moving away from “Asian American” and explore the transnational implications of Postmodernism in Akira (1988), an apocalyptic, post-modernist anime film. 

This course may be of particular interest to you if you are in or planning to be in the culture and literature field. 

Our class will be in person. 

TEXTS MAY INCLUDE (4 books; 1 film): 

Books will be available at the UH Bookstore. We will be watching the film Akira (1988) together in class

  1. Tripmaster Monkey, Maxine Hong Kingston
  2. The First Impulse, Laurel Flores Fantauzzo
  3. Insurrecto, Gina Apostol
  4. Dictee, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
  5. Film: Akira (1988)

***All supplementary reading materials will be posted in Laulima Resources


  1. Journaling with 2 discussion questions about the text (5%)
  2. Peer editing workshops (5%)
  3. Attendance and participation (10%) 
  4. Analysis paper #1, 1000 words (15%)
  5. Analysis paper #2, 1000 words (15%)
  6. Analysis paper #3, 1000 words (15%)
  7. Analysis paper #4, 1000 words (15%) 
  8. One oral presentation on a text or film of your choice (15%) 
  9. Final exam (5%)