EN210: Asian American Literature

Professor Glynis Carr
Fall Semester 1997
Office: 207-C Vaughan Literature Building
Office Hours: M, W, F 11-12; and by appointment
Phone: 524-3118 (Office); 524-1553 (Myrna Treston, secretary); 523-7486 (Home, not after 7 PM, please)

Texts and Materials:

Maxine Hong Kingston. Woman Warrior
Sui Sin Far (Edith Eaton). Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Writings
Carlos Bulosan. America is in the Heart
Hisaye Yamamoto. Seventeen Syllables
Joy Kogawa. Obasan
Faye Ng. Bone
Jessica Hagedorn, ed. Charlie Chan is Dead
Packets of poetry, short fiction, and criticism
Roberto Uno, ed. Unbroken Thread (OPTIONAL TEXT)
Amy Tan. The Joy Luck Club (OPTIONAL TEXT)

Course Description:

This course is an introductory survey of Asian American literature. We will read major works from the late 19th century to the present (with emphasis on contemporary literature). We will begin our studies with Kingston's The Woman Warrior, the book that put Asian American literature "on the map" in the 1970s. After that, the course is organized chronologically, covering major literary movements within the Asian American tradition and paying close attention to the literature's social and political contexts. While discerning the broad scope of Asian American literature as a whole, we will emphasize the writers' recurring themes, the social and political contexts in which they wrote, and their literary experimentation and innovation.

The course emphasizes prose (the novel, short stories, and autobiography), but we will also examine poetry, drama, and film. To supplement our readings of literary texts, we will study selected works of criticism, history, and the social sciences.

An important goal will be to understand Asian Americans as a diverse group of persons. Not only will we consider Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Southeast Asian American writers, but we will also attend to varieties of class, gender, regional, and religious identity, noting especially how these are shaped in and through history.

Course Objectives:


The class format will be a combination of lecture, discussion, and small group work. We will also view several films, in and out of class. We will not discuss every reading assignment in class, nor will lectures recapitulate the readings. In other words, reading and class attendance do not substitute for one another. Students are expected to come to class having done the assigned reading and prepared to contribute to discussion.

Assignments and Evaluation:

Attendance and participation in class discussions will count toward students' final grades.

Journals are an important assignment for this class. After each major unit (there are eight altogether), students will turn in informal writings including their ideas, responses, comments, and questions about the assigned readings and class discussions. Journals may be short and they need not be typed (unless I can't read your handwriting). The journal assignment is designed to let me know that you are keeping up with the readings and developing your ideas about the course in an on-going manner. They will also allow "one-to-one" communication between us. I will occasionally pose specific questions for students to address in their journals and I will sometimes prepare handouts from them, so be sure to indicate to me in case you want your work to be used anonymously or not used at all in this way. I will return journals within one week, having checked them and commented briefly. At the end of the semester, students will re-submit all journals in a well-organized packet for a letter grade.

Small Group Work. Students will work collaboratively to present research on one of the major groups of Asian Americans: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Southeast Asian Americans. Students' work will culminate in an oral presention to the class during Weeks #6-7 consisting of an overview of the group's history of immigration to the U.S. and its experiences in America. Students should also prepare a selected bibliography for the class including major works of literature, history, and research in the social sciences relevant to that group. A detailed handout on this assignment will be distributed during the first week of class.

Research Paper. During the last half of the semester, students will write a short research paper (7-10 pp.) on topics of their own choosing. The paper should reflect students' original ideas about one or more works of literature studied, as well as library research. In order to facilitate research, a bibliography of major tools for the study of Asian American literature is available on the website for this course. Research papers must be typed and include a bibliography of all primary and secondary sources cited.

Final Exam. There will be an exam that includes both short questions and an essay question. A study guide will be distributed on the last day of classes (in other words, there will be no surprises or "trick" questions).

The final grade will be distributed as follows:

Attendance and Participation 15%; Journals 25%, Group Project 20%, Research Paper 25%, Final Exam 15%

Class Policies

Schedule of Readings and Activities:

The following schedule includes major readings and due dates for written and oral work. Major readings will be supplemented by various xeroxed materials: more detailed descriptions of each unit will be available in class.

Week #1: Aug. 27-29
Introduction to the course.

Weeks #2-3: Sept. 1-12
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
Journal #1 due: Sept. 17

Week #4: Sept. 15-19
Sui Sin Far (Edith Eaton), Selections from Mrs. Spring Fragrance
Journal #2 due: Sept. 24
Small groups meet with me during this unit: progress check

Weeks #5-6: Sept. 22-29
Carlos Bulosan, America is in the Heart
Selection from Unbroken Thread
Journal #3 due: Oct. 3

Weeks #6-7: Oct. 1-10
Small Group Presentations TBA

Week #8: Oct. 15-17
In-class Video Screening: "Slaying the Dragon"
Mab Segrest, "A History of Racism in the United States"
Journal #4 due: Oct. 22

Weeks #9-10: Oct. 20-31
Hisaye Yamamoto, Selections from Seventeen Syllables
Toshio Mori, Selections from Charlie Chan is Dead
Bienvenido Santos, Selections from Charlie Chan is Dead
Journal #5 due: Nov. 5

Weeks #11-12: Nov. 3-14
Joy Kogawa, Obasan
D. Hwang, M. Butterfly
Journal #6 due: Nov. 19

Week #13: Nov. 17-21
Faye Ng, Bone
Journal #7 due: Nov. 25 (ATTENTION: This is a Tuesday)

Weeks #14-15: Nov. 24-Dec. 5
Selections from Charlie Chan is Dead
Draft of Research Paper due (OPTIONAL): Dec. 1

Week #16: Dec. 8
Course Evaluations; Distribution of Final Exam

The final exam will take place at the time and date specified by the registrar's office. The research paper will also be due at this time.

Back to course page: "Asian American Literature."

Return to Glynis Carr's Home Page.