Introduction to Asian American Literature

4:00p-5:15p TR (30 students) 3 CR.

Satisfies both A&H Distribution and CULTURE STUDIES LIST A requirements.

TOPIC: “Culture, Crime, Curios and Cuisine? Representations of American Chinatowns.”

In this class, we will challenge the stereotypical representations of American Chinatowns in prose, poetry, film and related interdisciplinary texts. We will look at works that purport to offer an “insiders’ view” of Chinatown, yet provide only simplistic representations of kung-fu, culture, crime, curios, and cuisine. We will also read texts that passionately speak against these stereotypes, turning the audience’s attention to the socio- political, economic histories of Chinatowns and the everyday struggles of their workers and residents. Paying close attention to authors’ strategies of representation, we will find that these strategies are complex and paradoxical. Our goal will not be to alight upon any “true” or “best” representation of Chinatown, but to sharpen our critical thinking skills and engage with a wide range of representations of race, class and gender in Chinatown so that we may approach these rich, paradoxical communities with a nuanced, critical eye.

In order to challenge our own strategies of representation and perception, a central requirement of this class will be to create websites about Chinatown. In small groups, we will create sites that manipulate the conventions of hypertext and other web technology to create antidotes to the current exoticizing Chinatown websites that focus on promoting tourism. No previous web programming experience is necessary. This is an interdisciplinary course, integrating literary texts with reading from ethnography, history, sociology, as well as theories of textuality and technology. Texts will tentatively include Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple, Bone, The New Chinatown, The Interpretation of Cultures, Radiant Textuality, The Year of the Dragon among others. Requirements: full attendance, active participation, midterm, quizzes, research paper (8-10 pages), web project proposal and summary (5-7 pages), and web project.