eng279y: asian north american literature in english


Topics for Paper 1
Due in class Thursday, October 27
Maximum length: 1500 words

Discuss one of the following topics in relation to two of the authors read up through October 27 (Chin, Bulosan, Inada, Oka, Mirikitani, Kingston). Develop an argument that links both texts and support that argument with specific evidence drawn from the texts, analyzing such elements as language, imagery, character, and narrative structure, rather than relying on abstract reflections on the topic.

1. Depictions of writers, writing, and storytelling appear throughout the texts we have read, from Carlos Bulosan’s account of his development as an author to the words on Fa Mu Lan’s back in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. Discuss the role and significance of these depictions. You may wish to consider such issues as the imagery and metaphors used to describe writing; the social role each author envisions for the writer; and the relationship between the writers depicted in the text and the text’s author.

2. Frank Chin remarks of John Okada’s work that “new experience breeds new language.” How is this insight evident in the texts we have read? How do the authors use, or misuse, Asian languages and the English language, and what is their attitude toward those languages? Do they develop a distinctive “Asian North American” language; if so, what does that look like? Be sure to cite specific examples in which language is thematized, whether that be in translating between languages, learning new ones, or struggling with a native tongue.

3. “America, I shall never love you,” declares Francis Oka; yet by the end of his poem he has “grown to accept roast beef.” Analyze the concept of “America” developed by the authors we have read. What language, imagery, metaphors, and narratives do the authors use to describe America? How do their conceptions of America differ from conventional ones? How do they praise and/or critique America? How is their idea of America relevant to the place of the Asian in North America?

If you wish to pursue a topic of your own design, other than one of those above, you must discuss the topic with me in office hours or by appointment no later than one week before the paper’s due date.