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Topics in Modern American Literature

ENGL 285.402
MWF 11

This class will attempt to take a cross-section of American discourses and representations of Asia. Given the voluminous nature of such signs and images, our investigations will necessarily be selective and partial, and will focus on East Asia, mostly Japan with some excursions to China. One reason for concentrating on Japan is that since WWII, the US has had an especially intense relationship to, and fascination with, Japan. A major premise of the class will be that American conceptions of Japan are particularly revelatory of fantasies and anxieties underlying American national identity and imperial domination in the post-WWII era. We will engage with theories and discourses of orientalism, and critically examine their content and deployment by various writers and critics. The course material will likely include, among other things, films of Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, and Bernardo Bertolucci, novels by Don Delillo, Ishmael Reed, and Michael Crichton, travel writing by Pico Iyer, Vikram Seth, and Cathy Davidson, and also writing by Japanese Americans who return to Japan, such as David Mura, Lydia Minatoya, and Kyoko Mori. I will ask students in the class to carry out their own research projects, which will result in a paper and a class presentation. There will also be at least one other paper on the assigned texts.