This course introduces students to some of the major works, authors, and themes of Asian American literature, a diverse body of writing broadly defined as literature written (mostly) in English by North American writers of Asian descent. “Asian” is a broad category that includes, but is not limited to, persons who trace their roots to China, Japan, Korea, Burma (or Myanmar), Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, or Pakistan. Why one might want to group this great variety of individuals, cultures, regions, languages, etc. under the umbrella term “Asian American” in the first place will be a question we confront in this class. While the term “Asian American” — as a replacement for the derogative “Oriental”— dates back to the Civil Rights Era and political struggles during the 1960s and 70s, Asian American literature has a long history that reaches back to the late 1800s. In this course, we will consider how Asian American writers over the decades have captured the unique dynamics of what it means to be Asian in America, and how that experience is closely linked to much larger issues like U.S.-Asian relations, international wars and commerce. Major themes will include questions of identity, racism and stereotyping, immigration, labor practices, assimilation, and representation. We will thus situate questions of literary style and genre (for example, why are so many Asian American works billed as memoirs or autobiographies?) against the backdrop of 19th and 20th U.S. and Asian history, with a particular focus on East and Southeast Asia. We will explore a wide variety of artistic forms, from novels and short stories to documentaries, films, paintings, and comic books.
Arts & Letters (A&L) courses create meaningful opportunities for students to engage actively in the modes of inquiry that define a discipline. Courses are broad in scope and demonstrably liberal in nature (that is, courses that promote open inquiry from a variety of perspectives). Though some courses may focus on specialized subjects or approaches, there will be a substantial course content locating that subject in the broader context of the major issues of the discipline. Qualifying courses will not focus on teaching basic skills but will require the application or engagement of those skills through analysis and interpretation.
Multicultural, Identity, Pluralism, and Tolerance (IP) courses examine the social construction of collective identities, the emergence of representative voices from varying social and cultural standpoints, and the effects of prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination. The purpose of courses in this category is to analyze the general principles underlying tolerance, or the lack of it.
Lower-division Elective courses allow students to choose (or “elect”) courses or faculty specific to their own developing interests, enabling them thereby to shape their own educational experience. Major II students can also use one lower-division elective to fulfill the Writing Requirement with ENG 209 The Craft of the Sentence.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.