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Asian American Literature

ENGL 272.401
instructor(s):
MW 3-4:30

***UPDATE***
As part of the course, we will be participating in the Asian Arts Initiative's Chinatown Oral History Project. The project consists of ethnographic training sessions, field interviews conducted in pairs and transcription of the oral histories. The project will culminate in an arts project formulated by the students based on the oral histories. For more information about the Chinatown Oral History project or the course, please contact yoonmeec@english.upenn.edu.

In this class we will examine how Asian American urban enclaves are represented in literature and film. We will look at mainstream depictions of Chinatowns in popular crime and martial arts films as well as online tourist sites that offer "insider" views into crime, culture, curios and cuisine. We will read poetry, prose and drama that reinforce and critique these stereotypical images of urban life and work, paying close attention to the strategies of representation deployed by the authors in imagining these spaces. The literature will be read against the socio-political and economic context leading to the creation of the original U.S. Chinatowns as well as the related pre-W.W.II Little Tokyos or "Nihonmachis" on the West Coast, today's Koreatown in Los Angeles made infamous by the 1992 riots, and the multi-ethnic “Chinatowns” around the nation that function variously in the transnational economy. Texts tentatively include works by Chang-rae Lee, Lois Ann Yamanaka, Maxine Hong Kingston, Frank Chin and Monica Sone as well as selected online material and popular films.