American Literature Essay

American Literature Essay-56
This literature cannot be read without some grounding in the historical and cultural contexts of Asians in the United States.Nor can the term Asian American be understood as a monolithic unity, for it contains hosts of nationalities and languages, dozens of religions, and a multitude of races as originating sources.First, I deconstruct the term oriental, explaining that as a signifier of someone or something of Asian origin it is no longer viable since it is burdened with all the negative connotations of inferiority, irrationality, and exoticism that Edward Said clearly delineated in his groundbreaking cultural history Orientalism.

This literature cannot be read without some grounding in the historical and cultural contexts of Asians in the United States.Nor can the term Asian American be understood as a monolithic unity, for it contains hosts of nationalities and languages, dozens of religions, and a multitude of races as originating sources.First, I deconstruct the term oriental, explaining that as a signifier of someone or something of Asian origin it is no longer viable since it is burdened with all the negative connotations of inferiority, irrationality, and exoticism that Edward Said clearly delineated in his groundbreaking cultural history Orientalism.

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The term American has been defined by Elaine Kim, author of the first book-length scholarly study, Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context (1982) as the requisite setting of an Asian American text.

Writers of Asian ancestry living in the United States, like Richard Kim and Sook Nyul Choi, but writing books set in Asian countries would be excluded by her definition.

Though the Heath Anthology includes only ten Asian American authors out of several possible hundreds, it does present a chronological and a somewhat representative sample from a field growing in two directions as new writers become published and as scholars uncover writers of the past.

Edith Maud Eaton (Sui Sin Far) ( 2, 884-901) is one of these discoveries.

At what point does an immigrant become an American? Can't a lengthy residency Americanize an immigrant even if his/her citizenship has remained unchanged?

Where do mixed-race people fit into these designations and how much Asian ancestry is necessary for the Asian American appellation?These essays have not appeared in print before; they are fresh, original, critical comments on major American authors.Most of the essays are the contributions of experienced, active teachers of American literature, offering the student and general reader literary criticism of scholarly depth, written informally. What about an author who is racially Asian and nationally American but who chooses not to write of his/her own ethnicity?Is Asian American literature defined by the ethnicity of the author or by its subject matter?These questions seem answerable only on a case by case basis, depending on the scholar or critic tackling them.In brief, for me the ethnicity of an author should be Asian and the subject matter Asian or Asian American to fit my definition of an Asian American text. By what criteria do we decide which texts are works of art and which are not?This seems to me an unfortunate exclusion that cuts off important sources of history, culture and memory.Since Asia is an inherent part of an Asian American's past, whether distant or more immediate, it should be acknowledged.Like Harriet Jacobs, she has the distinction of being a pioneer, the first Asian American writer of short fiction; her younger sister Winnifred Eaton (who used a Japanese pseudonym, Onoto Watanna, and is not included in the Anthology) was the first Asian American novelist.As contemporary reviewers wrote of Edith Eaton's work, Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian, her autobiographical essay sounded a new note in American literature, spotlighting the between-worlds plight of Chinese Eurasians during a period of virulent sinophobia.

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