What is the relationship between race and genre? Through a survey of major works and debates in Asian American literature, this course examines how writers employ a variety of generic forms — novels, comics, memoirs, film, science fiction — to address issues of racial and ethnic identity, gender, queerness, memory, immigration, and war. By placing racial formation in relation to social, economic, and intellectual developments, we will explore the potential of literary texts to deepen our historical understanding of Asians in the U.S. and beyond, and probe into what labeling a work of literature as “Asian American” allows us to know and do.
2020-21 Courses in Asian American/Diasporic Studies
Asian American Literature and Culture
Instructors: Paul Nadal
Asian American Autobiography
This class attempts to square the circle by using Asian American autobiographies as a lens through which to understand immigration and colonial history, and connect them to contemporary projects of Asian American political mobilization. While Asian American autobiography can serve as a way to translate one’s assimilation into American nationhood, this course seeks to destabilize all three terms in its title. We will read texts not intended as literary, transnational works that challenge what it means to be “American” literature; and others texts by authors at the boundaries of a Pan-Asian identity, such as Arab and Indo Caribbean writers.
Instructors: Ken Chen
Dangerous Bodies: Cross-Dressing, Asia, Transgression
This course examines “dangerous bodies” — bodies that transgress existing gender and racial norms in Chinese and Sinophone cultures. Situated at the intersection of literary, film, performance, gender and ethnic studies, this course provides an introduction to the shifting social meanings of the body in relation to historical masculinity, femininity, and Chineseness. We examine different cross-dressed figures, ranging from Mulan, cross-dressed male opera singer, WWII Japanese/Chinese spy, to experimental queer cinema, in a study that unpacks whether these transgressive bodies represent social change or a tool for restoring traditional norms.
Instructors: Erin Yu-Tien Huang
Asian American History
This course introduces students to the multiple and varied experiences of people of Asian heritage in the United States from the 19th century to the present day. It focuses on three major questions: (1) What brought Asians to the United States? (2) How did Asian Americans come to be viewed as a race? (3) How does Asian American experience transform our understanding of U.S. history? Using newspapers, novels, government reports, and films, this course will cover major topics in Asian American history, including Chinese exclusion, Japanese internment, transnational adoption, and the model minority stereotype.
Instructors: Beth Lew-Williams
South Asian American Literature and Film
This course examines literature and film by South Asians in North America. Students will gain perspective on the experiences of immigration and diaspora through the themes of identity, memory, solidarity, and resistance. From early Sikh migration to the American West Coast, to Muslim identity in a post 9/11 world, how can South Asian American stories be read as symbolic of the American experience of gender, class, religion, and ethnicity more broadly? Students will hone their skills in reading primary materials, analyzing them within context, writing persuasively, and speaking clearly.
Instructors: Sadaf Jaffer
Model Minority Fictions
Where did the stereotype of Asian Americans as model minorities — overachieving whiz kids, industrious workers, “tiger mothers,” “crazy rich” Asians — come from? What accounts for the model minority myth’s persistence today? How has its representational scheme changed over time? Does model minoritism have a literary (and not only social) history? By reading across fiction, visual culture, and economic history, this seminar traces the changing definitions of Asians in the U.S. from “yellow peril” to model minorities: from the myth’s wartime origins, to the birth of American neoliberalism, and onward to the global rise of Asia in the 21st century.
Instructors: Paul Nadal
Special Topics in Poetry: Race, Identity and Innovation
This workshop explores the link between racial identity and poetic innovation in work by contemporary poets of color. Experimental or avant-garde poetry in the American literary tradition has often defined itself as “impersonal,” “against expression” or “post-identity.” Unfortunately, this mindset has tended to exclude or downplay poems that engage issues of racial identity. This course explores works where poets of color have treated racial identity as a means to destabilize literary ideals of beauty, mastery and the autonomy of the text while at the same time engaging in poetic practices that subvert conceptions of identity or authenticity.
Instructors: Monica Youngna Youn