Spent a while this…

Spent a while this morning working on my Asian-American lit syllabus for next spring at Northwestern; it's a year away, but it needs to go into the schedule now. These books aren't fixed in stone, but tenatively, here's the plan:

Course Title: Asian American Literature: Defining Identities

Course Description:

Both nations and individuals are frequently asked to define themselves -- and at times are required to do so as a matter of survival. Often their self-definition primarily reflects opposition to another -- the culture of a colonizing nation, the values of their parents. This course will provide an introduction to Asian American literature through the lens of identity-formation. We will consider some of the ways in which nations and cultures are formed, and examine how writers in a varies of genres (fiction, poetry, memoir) have attempted to define Asian-American identities. In the process, we will examine identity in terms of ethnicity, language, gender, and orientation, and engage with critical debates over the cultural poltiics of identity, representation, and authenticity.

Texts include:

  • Asian American Dreams, Helen Zia
  • The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  • No-No Boy, John Okada
  • Contours of the Heart, Eds. Sunaina Maira and Rajini Srikanth
  • The Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee
  • The Gangster We Are All Looking For, l thi diem thy
  • The Very Inside: An Anthology of Writings by Asian and Pacific Islander Lesbians and Bisexual Women, ed. Sharon Lim-Hing
  • Sista Tongue, Lisa Linn Kana`e
That's probably still too many titles for a 300-level class, despite my cutting so many off my initial list. We'll see.

6 thoughts on “Spent a while this…”

  1. Not everyone has to read every book, do they? If not, then this is not too long. I find myself a bit disappointed that _Bodies in Motion_ is not on the list. Are you being too modest?

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Heh. No, they would all have to read every book, I’m afraid. Although two of them are anthologies that we’d only be reading selections out of (mostly poetry), and I’m not sure we’d read all of the first book either…

    As for mine — I’ll probably assign it as a supplement, but it would feel a bit odd making it one of the few required texts in a class that’s covering such a broad range — all of S. Asian-American, E. Asian-American and SE Asian-American literature! In some ways, it’s a ridiculous thing to even try to do, but hey, we start where we can.

  3. I think that’s a reasonable number of titles for a spring semester class, Mary Anne. I took Asian American Lit during the summer semester last year (495/595 level) and we covered 7 books in six weeks.

    Also, I know you have more than enough books on your list, but I really loved Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine. It’s a short novel, but so beautifully written.

  4. There’s always so much more to cover than we have time for. For me it’s film class – so many important films for them to see – so I try to pick not only exemplars for what we are studying but ones that will enkindle a love of film so that they will want to see stuff on thier own after that they wouldn’t have without my class. This sometimes leads to choices that I wouldn’t make if I was only considering the best example for the subject itself.

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