East-West: Asian American Literature in a Transnational Context
Younghill Kang’s second novel, Death of an Exile, was published in 1937 under a new title demanded by the publisher: East Goes West: The Making of an Oriental Yankee. This is one brief example of the multifarious transformations that accompanied the emergence of what we now call Asian American literature. US immigrant or ethnic literatures are not merely subgenres of literature written by minority peoples. These literary histories are marked by the complex and ever-changing nature of the political, social, cultural, and linguistic negotiations that continue to shape American society. The history of Asian American migrants and immigrants to the United States will be a primary, but not exclusive, focus of this course. Writings that record the experiences of exiles, refugees, travelers, tourists, journalists, monks, activists, and so on will also be investigated for the stories they tell about desires not oriented by the “American dream.” The final section of the course will consider some examples of literature by American authors, which register the contact of Eastern cultures with the United States outside the frame of Asian immigration (from Transcendentalism to Jack Kerouac’s School of Disembodied Poetics).