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Crossing Oceans

Crossing Oceans: Reconfiguring American Literary Studies in the Pacific Rim

Noelle Brada-Williams
Karen Chow
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Crossing Oceans
    Book Description:

    With the increasing globalization of culture, American literature has become a significant body of text for classrooms outside of the United States. Bringing together essays from a wide range of scholars in a number of countries, including China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and the United States, Crossing Oceans focuses on strategies for critically reading and teaching American literature, especially ethnic American literature, within the Asia Pacific region. This book will be an important tool for scholars and teachers from around the globe who desire fresh perspectives on American literature from a variety of national contexts. The contributors use perspectives dealing with race, feminism, cultural geography, and structures of power as lenses through which to interpret texts and engage students' critical thinking. The collection is 'crossing oceans' through the transnational perspectives of the contributors who come from and/or teach at colleges and universities in both Asia and the United States. Many of the essays reveal how narratives of and about ethnic Americans can be used to redefine and reconfigure not only American literary studies, but also constructions of Asian and American identities.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-094-4
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. About the Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 Between Places: American Literature and Language in the Pacific Rim
    (pp. 1-10)
    Karen Chow and Noelle Brada-Williams

    The increasing presence of American Studies in Asia can be witnessed by the establishment of centers such as the American Studies Research Centre in Hyderabad, India, the American Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong-America Center at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 1995, three scholars affiliated with the American Studies Research Center, Amritjit Singh, Max J. Skidmore, and Isaac Sequeira, produced an edited volume entitled American Studies Today: An Introduction to Methods and Perspectives (Creative Books, New Delhi, India). In the introduction, titled ‘Of American Studies Today: At Home and Abroad’, Singh explains...

  6. Part I: Defining American Literary Studies in Asia

    • 2 Pedagogies of Resonance: Teaching African American and Asian American Literature and Culture in Asia
      (pp. 13-28)
      King-Kok Cheung

      As a teacher and scholar, I have long been engaged with interracial dynamics in the United States. Since I began lecturing in Asia, particularly while teaching as a Fulbright Professor at the University of Hong Kong from 2000 to 2002, my chief concerns have been to explore the relevance of ethnic American studies in Asia and to present issues about race compellingly to Pacific Rim audiences. Asian audiences easily understand or sympathize with the plight of racial minorities in the United States, but what is most intellectually satisfying is noting these audiences begin to identify social inequalities in their own...

    • 3 When Asian American Literature Leaves ‘Home’: On Internationalizing Asian American Literary Studies
      (pp. 29-40)
      Sau-ling C. Wong

      Although the naming of Asian American literature is only a little more than three decades old, dating to the Asian American activism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the turn of the century has witnessed an explosive growth in the academic study of Asian American literature on American soil.¹ Furthermore, even from my extremely limited perspective as someone who has never taught outside the US, it is evident from many signs that the study of Asian American literature has been gaining momentum overseas. In Japan, a study group on Asian American literature has been active since the 1980s. Two...

    • 4 Reading a Foreign Place: Geography and American Literature
      (pp. 41-50)
      Sheila Hones

      One of the only defining characteristics that it seems possible to me to identify within the widespread and richly varied practice of ‘American Studies in Asia’ is the somewhat obvious point that it is engaged in the study of something foreign. Although ‘America’, in a myriad variety of forms, is indisputably present throughout the region, the academic practice of American Studies is nonetheless largely a study of foreign places, cultures, histories, ways of thinking, languages, and texts. This foreign world may well have local significance, and it may be a matter of self-interest for Asian students to develop an understanding...

  7. Part II: Teaching Texts, Teaching Contexts that Cross National Boundaries

    • 5 Teaching with Anthologies
      (pp. 53-66)
      Paul Lauter

      I was once embarrassed by using anthologies, much less creating them. I remembered e.e. cummings’s poetic joke at the expense of Louis Untermeyer:

      mr u will not be missed

      who as an anthologist

      sold the many on the few

      not excluding mr u

      (1 X 1, #XI)

      The usual rap against anthologies was that they were superficial: they offered a hop, skip, and jump through literary history instead of providing in-depth views of the truly great writers. There were too many authors, it was said; even in the most limited texts, those included were too uneven in quality, and the...

    • 6 Institutional Imperatives Affecting the Teaching of Asian American Literature Inside and Outside the Pacific Rim
      (pp. 67-78)
      Noelle Brada-Williams

      This chapter juxtaposes teaching experiences at several US universities — two on the eastern edge of the Pacific Rim and one near the center of the North American continent — in order to answer questions about how our teaching techniques should respond to changes within the field of Asian American literary and cultural studies. This juxtaposition of teaching experiences raises many questions and a few answers. It is my hope that a few of my observations may be applicable to classrooms outside of the United States. In the last 115 years, interest in ethnic American literature has grown in the...

    • 7 The Kiowa-Matsue Connection: Inventive Modeling and American Indian Literature Teach Japanese Identity
      (pp. 79-88)
      Kenneth M. Roemer

      Necessity — or in this case desperation — is the mother of invention, or, again in this case, of ‘inventive modeling’. Two decades ago, while teaching at Shimane University in Matsue, Japan, a miscommunication about a teaching assignment forced me — on the first day of class — to completely redesign an English composition course.¹ Since I had little time to plan a new course, I fell back on an American teaching experience that I hoped would translate into a valuable learning experience on the other side of the Pacific. At the University of Texas at Arlington, I had recently...

    • 8 The Great White ‘Race Adventure’: Jack London and the Yellow Peril
      (pp. 89-98)
      Patrick B. Sharp

      Jack London is one of the great American writers of the first two decades of the twentieth century. Like his contemporaries, Stephen Crane and Frank Norris, London was a widely read and admired author of the Naturalist movement. London’s ‘dog stories’ such as The Call of the Wild and White Fang dramatized Darwinist principles in a frontier setting and gave him both economic stability and international fame. London was also a socialist whose writing often reflected his deep sympathy for the working classes. His straightforward prose style and engaging narratives have made him a favorite in many courses on American...

    • 9 ‘Stories to Pass On’: Pedagogically Dialoging Maxine Hong Kingston and Toni Morrison
      (pp. 99-108)
      Karen Chow

      Maxine Hong Kingston once told fellow writer Arturo Islas, ‘No, we’re not outsiders, we belong here, this our country. This is our history and we are a part of America … If it wasn’t for us, America would be a different place.’¹ Within the pages of both her work and that of Toni Morrison can be found recovery of submerged complex and even convoluted language as well as social intimacies and codes of Chinese American and African American cultures. These qualities have brought these writers enormous critical acclaim and have made them giants among American writers.² Many admire them for...

    • 10 Teaching ‘Representations of Asians in the American Public Imagination’: The Problems of Representation as a Problematic
      (pp. 109-120)
      Ryan Bishop

      This chapter began as an exploration of teaching American literature and culture in Asia — both great, swaying categories that fall under any extended scrutiny. Nevertheless, this was my brief, as it were. Therefore, the topoi of pedagogy (teaching), content (American literature and culture) and context (in Asia) were explicitly in play. My initial approach emphasized context because I wished to provide a comparative analysis of teaching a course about representations of Asians in the American public imagination in two different settings: in a US (specifically, a small, upscale liberal arts college in Texas) and in an Asian context (at...

    • 11 Forging Intercultural Feminist Theory in Practice: The Korean Classroom Politics of Feminist Reading on Sula
      (pp. 121-130)
      So-Hee Lee

      This chapter aims to explore the Korean experience in English studies by forging intercultural feminist theory in practice between an African American feminist text such as Sula and Korean readers. By showing that performing a revisionary reading in the Korean university classroom plays a fundamental role in figuring out, shaking up, and reforming gender relationships in the ‘present’ Korean cultural context, this chapter confirms that feminist reading is the concurrent act to bringing forward a transparent map of the intersection of gender and culture.

      Reader-response theory privileges the experience of reading literary texts as a uniquely valuable consciousness-raising activity. Roland...

  8. Part III: Transnational Readings of Asian American Literature and Culture

    • 12 Between Memory and History: Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men and The Woman Warrior
      (pp. 133-138)
      Wang Jianping

      The representation of ‘the question of ambivalence’ (Bloom 1999, 1) toward ancestral tradition has been at the center of controversy on Maxine Hong Kingston’s use of Chinese mythology and the mnemonic genre. Amy Ling has succinctly formulated the issue: ‘Must the multicultural writer/artist be totally and exclusively answerable to his or her ethnic community, be the spokesperson of that community, tell the community’s stories and tell them accurately? Or can she or he claim the right to express an individual vision and personal concern, and to modify the myths and legends of a group to his or her own artistic...

    • 13 ‘An Identity Switch’: A Critique of Multiculturalism in Gish Jen’s Mona in the Promised Land
      (pp. 139-154)
      Chih-ming Wang

      With the publication of Typical American in 1991, Gish Jen attracted much public attention and has since been held as an important ethnic writer in the literary realm of Asian America.² A second-generation Chinese American herself, Jen is very perceptive of immigrant experience and extremely witty in her account of Asian American life. Mona in the Promised Land (1996) is her second novel, which is a sequel to her 1991 début. Rather than focusing on Yifeng Chang, the Chinese immigrant of the late 1950s, Mona in the Promised Land provides a close-up of the life of Mona Chang, the second-generation...

    • 14 Under Eastern Eyes: Ghosts and Cultural Haunting in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and China Men
      (pp. 155-164)
      Walter S. H. Lim

      If an Asian reader wishes to locate a useful point of entry into the narrative universe and cultural world of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, he or she is likely to find it in the author’s treatment of ghosts. The reason is that the story of the hungry ghost, the narrator’s unnamed aunt, at the very start of the book invokes the context of the hungry ghost festival, which, in societies like Singapore and Hong Kong, is ritualisticaUy observed by many Chinese in the seventh month of the lunar calendar. The ‘ghostly’ aspect of this festival derives largely from...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 165-176)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 177-192)
  11. Index
    (pp. 193-200)