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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2008

E 379N • Contemporary Asian American Novel

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35515 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
PAR 303

Course Description

It's one thing to write books that no one reads, but what happens when the American reading public suddenly becomes interested? In the last fifteen years, books written by Asian Americans have exploded into the publishing world. Since the blockbuster success of Amy Tan, publishers have been on a relentless quest to discover the next Joy Luck Club. This class examines how Asian American literature has responded to the increased interest from the publishing and reading worlds. We start by analyzing Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior and Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, works that are considered the ur-texts for the Asian American novel in academic and popular discourses respectively. Why did these novels become emblematic for various reading communities for the "Asian American experience"?

We will then turn to a selection of works written by Asian Americans since 1990. The focus of the class for the rest of the term will be on how these narratives propagate or explode popular conceptions of what constitutes an "Asian American" story. A key interpretive issue for the class will be exploring how the novels balance the expectations of their mainly white readership with their individual explorations of what constitutes Asian American subjectivity, experience, and literature. In approaching that question, we will also consider the reception the book has had, within academic and popular communities. We will be reading the reviews and author interviews that appeared in the mainstream press at the time of publication as well as a selection of critical essays. Attention will be paid to formal structure, narration, and genre as well as how issues of race, sexuality, gender, and national identity are represented.

Grading Policy

Class participation 15%
In-class presentation 15%
Short writing assignments 30%
Final research paper 40%


Susan Choi, American Woman; Gish Jen, Typical American; Nora Okja Keller, Comfort Woman; Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior; Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake; lê thi diem thúy, The Gangster We Are All Looking For; Chang-Rae Lee, Native Speaker; Don Lee, Country of Origin; Fae Ng, Bone; Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club; Adrian Tomine, Shortcomings, Monica Truong, The Book of Salt


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