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Suspended Subjects: The Politics of Anger in Asian American Literature

  • Author(s): Ma, Nan
  • Advisor(s): Yamamoto, Traise
  • et al.
Abstract

Examining a diverse set of Asian American literary texts, this project explores the ways in which discourses of race, gender, class, sexuality and citizenship shape the articulation of emotions in Asian American Literature. While figures of the angry black man, the Latino gangster, and the Native American warrior abound in dominant American cultural narratives, Asian Americans have been constructed as the polar opposite: subdued, submissive, and accommodating. The figure of the angry Asian American remains a void in the dominant American cultural imaginary. One of the goals of this project is to interrogate and problematize the roots and implications of this absence. Placing anger within the historical, social and political contexts of war, colonialism, immigration and U.S. identity politics, I approach anger as a discourse that informs and shapes knowledge production and subject formation. The following questions animate my discussions: How is anger made legible in Asian American texts? What does anger suggest about the ways in which Asian Americans have been formed as subjects? How does anger complicate the notion of Asian American domesticity?

Via a comparative study of Chang-rae Lee's A Gesture Life and lê thi diem thúy's The Gangster We are All Looking For, chapter one examines the inextricable connection between Asian Americans anger and the model minority myth. Chapter two, by means of discussing David Mura's memoirs Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei and Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity, investigates the relationship between anger and Asian American masculinity. Examining Monqiue Truong's The Book of Salt and Susan Choi's American Woman, chapter three builds on recent scholarship on notions of melancholia and loss to explore anger's productive potentials. The discussion of anger's productive possibilities and limitations is extended in chapter four, which traces a genealogy of Chinese American women's anger in Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior and Shirley Geok-lin Lim's Among the White Moon Faces: An Asian-American Memoir of Homelands.

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