eng279y: asian north american literature in english


Topics for Fall Term Test
December 8, 2005, UC 244
Time: 2 hours

Aids permitted: You are permitted one page of notes, which must be turned in at the end of the test. No other aids are permitted. You may not use any of the texts from the class, or any other book, during the test.

I. Identifications (10 points each)
You will be given a selection of short passages from texts we have read this term. You will be asked to choose three of these passages. For each passage you select, identify the author and the title of the work. Briefly explain the context in which the passage appears, including, if necessary, identifying the characters who are speaking or described in the passage, and briefly explain the passage’s significance.

II. Essay (70 points)
Four of the following five questions will appear on the test. You will be asked to choose one and write a clear, focused, concise essay in response. The essay should have a clearly defined argument and should support that argument with detailed textual evidence. As a literary analysis, the essay should concern itself with the form, style, and language of the texts, and should draw its central concepts from those texts, rather than from external assumptions. You may wish to focus on a small number of examples from the texts, rather than trying to make generalizations about the text as a whole.

1. “The subject matter of minority literature,” Frank Chin and his co-editors write in their introduction to Aiiieeeee!, “is social history, not necessarily by design but by definition.” Discuss Joy Kogawa’s approach to Japanese Canadian history in Obasan, using Chin’s remarks on the role of history in literature as a point of reference. (You may draw on both the Introduction to Aiiieeeee! and “Confessions of a Chinatown Cowboy.”) How does Kogawa integrate social history into her novel? What do you think Chin and his colleagues would think of her strategies?

2. Compare the portrayal of fathers in Fred Wah’s Waiting for Saskatchewan and David Mura’s “Gardens We Have Left.” What language, imagery, and poetic forms do these writers use to describe their fathers? How do they connect their fathers to their sense of Asian North American culture, history, politics, or identity?

3. In Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, the narrator asks her readers, “What is Chinese tradition and what is the movies?” That question becomes even more difficult to answer when applied to an actual movie—Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet, in which “Chinese tradition” seems to play a central role. Is it possible, in these texts, to know what is really “Chinese” and what is not? How do the characters in these texts make these kinds of cultural distinctions? Discuss at least one incident in which a reader’s or a character’s assumptions about “Chinese tradition” are challenged or overturned.

4. Compare the depiction of the experience of Japanese North American internment in Joy Kogawa’s Obasan and in one of the following authors: David Mura, Janice Mirikitani, or Lawson Fusao Inada. What aspects of internment does each author choose to portray? What kinds of language and imagery do the authors use? How do they integrate this traumatic historical event into a novel or a poem?

5. Place and travel play a central role in Fred Wah’s Waiting for Saskatchewan and Carlos Bulosan’s America Is In the Heart, from Wah’s trip to China and his depictions of the Canadian prairie to Carlos’s criss-crossing of the western United States. Why are these places, and travel between them, so important to these authors and their characters? How does each author portray places and travel between them? What role does travel play in the development of each author’s characters?