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The Ethnic Canon: Histories, Institutions, and Interventions

Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Ethnic Canon
    Book Description:

    Argues that texts are added to the canon only after an operation that attempts to resolve and neutralize historical and political contradictions and differences. The Ethnic Canon offers a wide variety of critical viewpoints and is unique in its pointed critique of the academy regarding specific authors and texts that have and have not been included in the canon. Contributors include Norma Alarcón, Paula Gunn Allen, Elliott Butler-Evans, Barbara Christian, Lisa Lowe, Colleen Lye, Ramón Saldívar, E. San Juan Jr., Rosaura Sánchez, Jana Sequoya-Magdaleno, and Sau-ling Cynthia Wong

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8630-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    The battles for the inclusion of ethnic literature in the curriculum of American literary studies have been fought, and in many cases, won. Not only have works by ethnic peoples been integrated into the course offerings and syllabi of many departments of literature in the U.S. academy, but multiculturalism as a general program of representing the cultures and histories of diverse minorities also has been widely inscribed within college and university curricula, while “diversity” has become a keyword in the marketing of higher education in the United States.³

    But an understanding of multiculturalism as a synonym of pluralism (which marks)...

  2. PART ONE Instituting Minor Literatures

    • “Border” Studies: The Intersection of Gender and Color
      (pp. 31-47)

      Not only has littled changed since I entered the profession in the 1970s, nothing much has changed since Irenaeus, nearly two thousand years ago. They’re still pontificating, excluding, and power-tripping, while we’re still resisting, dissenting, deconstructing, and subverting. Heresies spring up all around only to die, only to recur persistently like wildflowers, like crab-grass. We still match personal experience and gnosis with canonicity, and those who tenaciously cling to the rotting pillars of Rome dismiss us—or order us purged. It seems that as long as we remain locked into oppositional structures, nothing but “same ol’, same ol’ ” can...

    • Canon, Institutionalization, Identity: Contradictions for Asian American Studies
      (pp. 48-68)

      Approaching the question of Asian American Studies, I pose T.S. Eliot’s 1949 lament that democratized education places the “ancient edifice” of Western culture at risk from the encroachments of non-Western cultures and the mass culture of industrialized society (“barbarian nomads in their mechanised caravans”) against the classroom evoked in Monique Thuy-Dung Truong’s 1991 Vietnamese American short story “Kelly” in order to ground my discussion in two fundamental relationships. First, the juxtaposition of Eliot and Truong renders explicit a relationship between the culturalist narrative that valorizes Western culture as a separate sphere and the materially, racially, and sexually differentiated society which...

  3. PART TWO The Construction of the Ethnic

    • The Borders of Modernity: Américo Paredes’s Between Two Worlds and the Chicano National Subject
      (pp. 71-87)

      Renowned as an ethnographer, literary critic, and social historian for more than thirty years of magisterial production, Américo Paredes is being hailed at century’s end for special accomplishment in the creative arts as well. His artistic endeavors include distinguished work as an arranger, composer, and performer of ballads and popular music, and as a screenwriter, storyteller, and oral historian. Honored in 1989 by the National Endowment for the Humanities as one of the initial recipients of the Charles Frankel Prize,and in 1990 by the Republic of Mexico as one of the first Mexican American inductees to the Orden del Aguila...

    • Telling the différance: Representations of Identity in the Discourse of Indianness
      (pp. 88-116)

      Insofar as American Indians have been taken apart as peoples and reinvented as discourse, the referent of the category “Indian” is a matter of much dispute.¹ The premise of this essay is that, first of all, this condition of disputation is an effect of the “Othering” province of the category itself.² Second, it is a paradoxical consequence of virtual American Indian acculturation to legal, political, and economic formations of an “Indian” difference, caught between differing and deferring, subject to regulation and administration. That administratively produced difference is, in turn, culturally inscribed as the standard of identity cohering American Indian diversity;...

    • The Politics of Carnival and Heteroglossia in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: Dialogic Criticism and African American Literature
      (pp. 117-139)

      This essay will explore the appropriateness of applying interpretive strategies suggested by dialogic criticism to the interpretation of African American narrative texts. By dialogic criticism I refer to that critical approach that is informed by theoretical constructs largely identified with the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin and members of his circle.¹

      I am particularly interested in the manner in which concepts such ascarnival, heteroglossic, dialogic,andpolyphonymight be useful in enabling broader dialogue focused on the interpretation of African American literature and result in more nuanced readings of those texts.

      I first considered the possibility of conducting such an...

    • Tropology of Hunger: The “Miseducation” of Richard Rodríguez
      (pp. 140-152)

      The historical condition of our times is to have “ethnicity,” albeit reconfigured and remapped in the aftermath of the civil rights movement in the United States. The Marxist mandate to acquire a class consciousness has been too limited to account for all the elements in the formation of raced ethnic groups in the context of the Americas. It increasingly appears as well that in the Euro-American terrain the formation of a proletarian class consciousness has become more of a step on the way to the formation of an unstable bourgeois liberal subject, given the hegemony of the ideology, than to...

    • Calculated Musings: Richard Rodríguez’s Metaphysics of Difference
      (pp. 153-173)

      In his work onExiles and Émigrés, Terry Eagleton poses the notion that the great literary achievements of the First World War period in modern English fiction were those of foreigners and émigrés: James, Conrad, Eliot, Yeats, Joyce, Pound, and Lawrence (who was English but working-class) (Eagleton 1970, 14–15). In contrast, the two dominant English strands of literature, that of the “upper class” and the “lower middle class,” are described as being “too tied, at crucial points, to the dominant orthodoxy they opposed” (13). Both traditional modes, according to Eagleton, were “incapable of embracing, or transcending, the society to...

    • “Sugar Sisterhood”: Situating the Amy Tan Phenomenon
      (pp. 174-210)

      The sensational success of Amy Tan’s first novel,The Joy Luck Club(1989), is the stuff of publishing legend. Before the shrewd eye of agent Sandra Dijkstra spotted a potential winner, Tan was entirely unknown to the literary world. But lavish advance praise—the dust jacket of the hardcover edition bears enthusiastic blurbs by Alice Walker, Alice Hoffman, and Louise Erdrich— and postpublication rave reviews instantly propelledThe Joy Luck Clubonto theNew York Timesbest-seller list, where it stayed for nine months. The hardcover edition was reprinted twenty-seven times and sold 275,000 copies (J. Simpson, 66); frenzied bidding...

  4. PART THREE The Ethnic, the Nation, and the Canon

    • In Search of Filipino Writing: Reclaiming Whose “America”?
      (pp. 213-240)
      E. SAN JUAN JR.

      Ever since the United States annexed the Philippine Islands in 1898, the discourse of capital (as these opening quotes testify) has always been reductive, monological, and utilitarian. Although luminaries such as MarkTwain, William James, and William Dean Howells denounced the slaughter of the natives during the Filipino-American War of 1899–1902, the Filipino presence was not registered in the public sphere until their singular commodity, labor power, appeared in large numbers in Hawaii and on the West Coast from 1907 to 1935. Until 1946, when formal independence was granted, Filipinos in the metropolis (numbering around 150,000) occupied the limbo of...

    • A Rough Terrain: The Case of Shaping an Anthology of Caribbean Women Writers
      (pp. 241-259)

      At present I am engaged along with one of my sisters, Opal Palmer Adisa, in constructing an anthology of English-speaking Caribbean women’s creative and critical writings especially for use in college classrooms. Opal and I have for many years bemoaned the fact that such a text does not exist, particularly since Caribbean Women’s writing in the Islands as well as in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada is flourishing. If “merit” were the measure, if the appearance of new forms and concerns and different approaches to language were criteria, these writers would, we thought, be at the top...

    • M. Butterfly and the Rhetoric of Antiessentialism: Minority Discourse in an International Frame
      (pp. 260-290)

      Few works by Asian American artists have captured as much attention as David Henry Hwang’s dramatic adaptation of a newspaper account of a French diplomat’s affair with a Peking Opera diva later revealed to be a man and a spy for the People’s Republic of China. Winning mainstream accolades such as the Tony Award for Best Play of the Year in 1988,M. Butterflyhas also been taken up by many Asian American and feminist critics as an example of politically subversive theater.¹ Chalsa Loo praises the play as a work of “complexity and brilliance,” in the way that it...