My research is broadly concerned with developing historicist and formalist approaches to the study of literature, with specializations in the Asian American and Philippine Anglophone novel. I am working on two manuscript projects. The first is a study of realism in the Filipino novel in English in relation to the political economy of human labor export and migrant remittances. Titled “Remittance Fiction,” the book argues that an important precursor of the migrant worker was the migrant writer and that novels produced in the diaspora helped to elucidate remittances not only as money but also as a social form. Illuminating the agency of literature in shaping economic discourse, the book advances a new history of the Philippine Anglophone novel by telling the story of how writers—working between the U.S. and the Philippines through an international exchange system of U.S. creative writing—forged the representational powers of the realist novel to grapple with questions of national development. The second project is a study of the link between post-1965 economic restructuring and Asian American literary emergence through an analysis of Cold War–era debates about family, race, and so-called human capital formation.
I received my Ph.D. in rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley, where I was a dissertation fellow at the Institute of International Studies under the direction of Colleen Lye and Judith Butler. Before coming to Princeton, I held a visiting assistant professorship at The New School in New York City and was named Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Wellesley College.
I was born and raised in the Philippines and currently live in Princeton, NJ.
Nadal, Paul. “A Literary Remittance: Juan C. Laya’s His Native Soil and the Rise of Realism in the Filipino Novel in English.” American Literature 89.3 (2017): 591–626.
Abstract This essay recovers a once celebrated but now forgotten Filipino novel in English, Juan Cabreros Laya’s His Native Soil (1941), which marked the emergence of realism during the Philippine Commonwealth’s slow, decade-long transition to independence from the United States. Whereas the novel was originally praised as a landmark text in Philippine literature in English, His Native Soil was later dismissed by postwar critics as an imitative, formally flawed, and stylistically inferior work. Taking up Roberto Schwarz’s challenge to advance a reading practice that takes into account the difference between literature and social structure in the colonial periphery, I argue that rather than viewing His Native Soil’s improbabilities of plot and tonal dissonances as artistic flaws, they are more meaningfully read as the author’s attempt to adapt the realist protocols of the bildungsroman to capture the double-edged nature of independence: the adoption of a trade policy that would economically bind together the Philippines and the United States and that would render political freedom impossible for Filipinos unless relations of colonial dependency were to be continued after independence.