Date of Submission

Spring 2015

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Literature; Asian Studies

Project Advisor 1

Mika Endo

Abstract/Artist's Statement

This project seeks to overturn popular misconceptions about Asian American literature by situating it in a political context while also attending to complexities of language and form. Chapter One explores the significance of silence in the work of Toshio Mori, whose Yokohama, California (1949) was the first book of short stories published by a Japanese American in the United States, ultimately finding that Mori’s work resists the notion of silence as indicative of “model minority” assimilation. Chapter Two uses Fredric Jameson's problematic theory of Third World “national allegory” as a compelling framework through which to criticize ongoing concerns about the authenticity and literary merit of Asian American literature. With Jameson as a jumping-off point, I consider issues of collective, representation, and canon, as well as the relationship between silence, speech, and writing in Akhil Sharma’s Family Life and Chang-Rae Lee’s “Faintest Echo of Our Language.” Finally, Chapter Three addresses relations between Asian Americans and African Americans, which have been central to both Asian American identity formation and to the roots of Asian American literature; the first seminal anthology of Asian American literature, Aiiieeeee!, was published in 1974 through the Howard University Press. Nonetheless, the work of Aiiieeeee! editor Frank Chin is extremely reliant on racist stereotypes of black hypermasculinity and presents black culture as a means through which to make the male Asian American subject “whole.” Idealized and inadequate visions of a “post-racial” future in Lee’s Native Speaker and Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats are also discussed, problematizing recent discourse that seeks to “go beyond black and white.”

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