Theorizing Asian American Fiction (Modern Fiction Studies special issue, 2010)
Guest Editors: Stephen Hong Sohn, Paul Lai, and Donald C. Goellnicht
Deadline for Submission: 30 January 2009
The topic of this special issue of MFS stems from the exponential growth in Asian American literary production over the past few decades and the ongoing need to understand how these texts function within the framework of ethnic and Asian American Studies. This issue seeks to account for and further the important changes that have taken place in the last decade since Susan Koshy (1996) observed that Asian American literary studies “has been weak in theoretical work,” especially in its assumptions of a coherent body of texts defined by the ethnicities of the authors. More recently, Colleen Lye (2007) argues that scholars continually problematize the discursive production of Asian America without asking why we continue to lean on “Asian America” as an organizing principle for literary study. Her project instead offers: “the sense of the theoretical generativity of speaking not of identity but of form, of trying to investigate race and nation through the relationship between aesthetic and social modalities of form.” While Lye’s project usefully focuses on literary and narrative forms of Asia, its attempts to distance the formation of a textual coalition from authorial bodies drifts somewhat from other Asian American literary studies’ political project of recognizing and revaluing Asian American authors’ work. Is there a way to privilege the identities of authors even while focusing on form in defining a tradition of fiction? If existing rubrics of Asian American literature problematically collect texts under the eye of biology, what other ways might Asian Americanists approach, categorize, and consider their objects of study? For example, how does thinking of Asian American literature as a “subjectless discourse,” as Kandice Chuh (2003) has espoused, enable new representational and taxonomic configurations to emerge? If a panethnic, nationally-determined category of persons is insufficient for defining a textual body, how might interrogating the geopolitical boundaries of the field look in turning more directly to Asian North American or Anglophone Asian fictions without simply adding more racialized bodies to the fold?
To address these questions, MFS solicits articles that have broad implications for theorizing Asian American fiction as a whole while paying attention to specific texts. Papers might investigate: how the field must be reconstructed or redefined through discursive intersectionalities with queer studies, gender studies, class critique, post-ethnicity/post-race critical theory, area studies, diaspora, transnationalism, globalization, and/or postcolonialism; authors and texts that arguably fall out of disciplinary boundaries and/or authors and texts that have spawned debates within the field (e.g. Ha Jin’s Waiting, Chang-rae Lee’s Aloft, and Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Blu’s Hanging); canon formation in Asian American literary studies and its East Asian focus; how the field can read contemporary texts alongside earlier ones; poststructuralist and postmodern discourses which de-stabilize essentialist Asian American literary definitions (“real vs. fake”); conceptions of ethnic/racial heritage and mixed-race bodies within Asian American literature; the possibilities for claiming as Asian American literature the work of non-Asian American writers (e.g. David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars, Deborah Iida’s Middle Son); regionalism in Asian American literature (South Asia/East Asia/Southeast Asia/Pacific Islands, regional differences within the US and Canada, connections across the Americas); nationalism as a continuing organizing principle in Asian American (including or excluding Asian Canadian?) fiction; the (re)turn to aesthetics, genre, and form and/as politics; or how Asian American literature is defined outside academic criticism (e.g. in publishing and marketing discourses).
Essays should be limited to 9,000 words, including all quotations and bibliographic references, and should follow the MLA Style Manual for internal citation and Works Cited. Please submit two copies of your essay to The Editors, Mfs, Department of English, Purdue University, 500 Oval Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2038.
Queries should be directed to Paul Lai (plai2 [at] stthomas [dot] edu).