“The Scale of the World: Maps, Labyrinths, Assemblages,” Fall 2020
What happens to narrative when it aspires to represent the world? What forms of perception and knowledge does the world as scale enable? In literature, the presence of world scale bespeaks a desire to grasp the interconnected nature of social reality. “World” names both the observable world as well as the less perceptible systems of relations that enmesh and shape our lives—such as gender, race, political economy, and history. Yet any given world by definition precedes and exceeds the boundaries of who we are and what we can know and see. World thus introduces an element of indeterminacy and unknowability in narrative representation even as it conditions it. In this seminar, we will study how writers engage the paradox of world scale as an enabling limit. We will explore works that overtly strive for a fuller picture of some empirical or conceptual whole (e.g., globalization, climate change, migration, love, consciousness, the Internet), especially where they also thematize the impossibility or contradictoriness of such a project. Organized around three models of representational space—maps, labyrinths, assemblages—the seminar will examine how writers play with scale and perspective, link parts to wholes, connect event with structure, and provincialize worlds while also rendering the seemingly provincial or mundane worldly. Above all, we will learn how reading for world scale might be a means for reading how power—in its modern appearance as capital and empire—works.
“Model Minority Fictions,” Fall 2020
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 US 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.
“Asian American Literature and Culture,” Spring 2020
This course is an introductory survey of the major works and debates in Asian American literature and culture. We will study a variety of genres--novels, short stories, comics, memoirs, films, and science fiction--to examine how writers treat issues of racial and ethnic identity, gender, queerness, history, memory, colonialism, immigration, technology, and war. By placing Asian American subject formation in relationship to social, economic, and intellectual developments, we will explore the potential of Asian American literary texts to deepen our global and historical understanding of Asians in the U.S. and the U.S. in Asia.
ASA 224 / ENG 224 / GSS 226
“Global Novel,” Fall 2019
How do novels represent the global? How have new media systems and economic exchange transformed not only the way novels are produced and distributed but also the internal form of the literary works themselves? This course examines how writers register the interconnected nature of modern life and the narrative strategies that they invent to make sense of migration, war, urbanization, climate change, and financialization. Students will learn interdisciplinary methods for reading literature’s potential for sociological and historical knowledge by considering how the global novel grapples with empire and what political futures it forecloses and opens up.
Novels assigned include Mohsin Hamid, Exit West (2017); Tom McCarthy, Satin Island (2015); Zia Haider Rahman, In the Light of What We Know (2014); Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2013); Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs (2016); Karen Tei Yamashita, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990); Miguel Syjuco, Ilustrado (2008).
ENG 444 / ASA 444 / AMS 443
“Introduction to Asian American Studies,” Spring 2019 (syllabus)
This course surveys critical themes in the interdisciplinary field of Asian American studies, including perspectives from history, literature, sociology, and gender and sexuality studies. It develops an account of Asian racialization beyond the black-white binary in the context of US war and empire in Asia and the Pacific Islands, settler colonialism, globalization, migration, and popular culture. Who or what is an “Asian American”? How have conceptions of Asian America changed over time? How do cultural forms such as literature and film add to an understanding of Asian American identity as a historically dynamic process and social relation?
“The Asian American Family,” Fall 2018
This seminar examines the emergence and transformation of the Asian American family as a social form. We will investigate how US labor demands and legal restrictions on immigration and citizenship militated against the formation of Asian American families, and how paper sons, military wives, refugees, adoptees, and LGBT family experiences eluded norms of kinship. We will also study the significance of the intergenerational trope in Asian American literature, and how writers responded to neoliberalism's remaking of the "Asian" family according to the model minority myth.
ASA 347 / AMS 347 / ENG 426 / GSS 358