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  • Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Location: Zoom

Please join us for a talk with Professor Nan Z. Da. Contact Ethan Plaue ( or Arianna James ( for the Zoom link

See below for abstract:

This talk develops a theory of fiction from novels of downwardly mobile Asians living ugly and ineffectually husbanded lives, their narrators having sifted through the literary topoi to pick what is hardest to represent and hardest to report back to others. Here, the mandate of fiction is the preservation of an account of how bad things happen (and how they are alleviated or worsened by cultural difference) that is unresponsive to generic advice about conflict diagnosis and conflict resolution, whether that advice comes from mainstream American culture or Asian self-representation, whether it comes in the form of psychologizing or in the form of tasteful adventures in the ironies of immigration. This is a ledger kept against even the most endearing and moving portraits of immigrant life— in which what is kept track of is not identity, but sequence (this is how it actually happens, this is what actually happens, this is what actually happened. This is not the way in which we’ve been wronged. This is not the way we make things wrong for each other). What fiction becomes for these hard cases is a record of holding out as long as you can in the battle between the reconstruction of actual sequences and aspirational conflicts-- conflicts that better make your case. This way of thinking of fiction (not as a first resort, but as a last) in turns drastically changes how we view staple literary devices like irony and unreliability.