- Literary Studies
Chair: Tina Y. Chen
Committee Members: Martin Joseph Ponce, Stephen Hong Sohn
Apparitions of Asia: Modernist Form and Asian American Poetics, by Josephine Nock-Hee Park
Asian Canadian Writing Beyond Autoethnography, edited by Eleanor Ty and Christl Verduyn
The committee voted unanimously to award the 2010 Literary Studies Award to Josephine Nock-Hee Park for her well-written, elegantly composed, and insightful monograph. Apparitions of Asia: Modernist Form and Asian American Poetics brings together two fields of inquiry—American Orientalism in modernist poetry and Asian American poetics—and deftly shows the relationships and connections between the two. In emphasizing the ideologically vexed and formally provocative relationship between the American Orient and Asian America, Park tracks over a century’s worth of transpacific poetic engagements and, in the process, offers a nuanced account of both modernist and counterculture poetic revolutions that goes beyond the deadly terms of “alienation,” “abjection,” and “assimilation.”
Park interweaves a series of philosophical, religious, poetic, and biographical connections in her study, demonstrating how the American Orient of high modernism has significantly influenced Asian American poetry. By considering the ways in which American Orientalism operates not simply as an “othering” force but also as a set of complex alliances, Park persuasively argues for an alternative poetic teleology that is not solely focused through identity politics (and yet is still politically invested in its articulation). Divided into two parts, the first half of Apparitions of Asia attends to the ways in which modernist poets like Ezra Pound and Gary Snyder drew on Asian religious and aesthetic traditions to invigorate and redefine U.S. poetic practices. The second half of the book carefully delineates the ways in which Asian American poets—Lawson Fusao Inada, Theresa Hak-Kyung Cha, and Myung-mi Kim, among others—critically respond to and revise American Orientalism so as to create “a new culture out of an ill-fitting heritage” (158).
Park convincingly demonstrates that although American Orientalism has been conceptualized as a “hard limit” to Asian America, Asian American poetry [End Page 392] and poetics have grappled with such a legacy in order to produce some of the most admired formal innovations in the field. Park brings in a wealth of primary texts per each author’s oeuvre for analysis rather than focusing on a single “canonical” text. These beautifully researched connections and the bountiful archive that Park explores render the book more than just a thematic analysis of American Orientalism and Asian American poetry—that is, the usual procedure of exotic othering/cultural appropriation versus self-representation and cultural resignification. Indeed, Park effectively demonstrates the “literary intimacy” between U.S. and East Asia and American Orientalism and Asian American literature in order to create a modern history of transpacific literary alliances.
Apparitions of Asia is an extraordinary story of complex cross-cultural and transpacific exchanges that Park narrates with enviable composure and sensitivity, a striking capacity for close reading, and judiciously presented historical, cultural, and biographical information.
The committee is very pleased to recognize Asian Canadian Writing Beyond Autoethnography with an Honorable Mention. This well-focused, compelling, and much-needed anthology does an excellent job of introducing its readers to the diversity and richness of Asian Canadian writing even as it makes a compelling case for how working the theoretical notion of “beyond autoethnography” can provide new directions in how we can read Asian American (and indeed, all ethnic) literatures.
In their introduction, Eleanor Ty and Christl Verduyn do a fine job of laying out the historical and political contexts for understanding multiculturalism in Canada and Asian Canadian literary history within that framework. Their efforts to chart the development of Asian Canadian studies spotlight the ways in which the field has developed differentially from Asian American studies, in the process demonstrating and problematizing recent efforts to reconceptualize Asian North American literatures as globalized and transnational in both scope and practice.
Asian Canadian Writing Beyond Autoethnography impresses in a variety of ways, chief among them its collective assertions regarding the significance of how Asian Canadian literatures are in the process of “redefining ‘Asian,’ no longer seeing it as a geographical point of origin, but as a space...