Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Realizing the extent to which Sau-ling Wong's theory of Asian American literature relies on an analogy between texts and persons:
Just as the Asian American ethnic group is a political coalition, Asian American literature may be thought of as an emergent and evolving textual coalition, whose interests it is the business of a professional coalition of Asian American critics to promote.
It's an elegant conception, simple to the point of brilliance, possibly the only coherent theory of how Asian American texts work together I've seen. Reading the rest of the book, I can't argue with the results.

But I'm still trying to decide whether, on some more fundamental level, I buy that basic move. It's a way around the thornier word "tradition"--acknowledging that the usual lines of influence and direct allusion that might define, say, the tradition of British or American letters simply won't suffice to hold together a diffuse and emergent canon. It's also a way to avoid a conception of Asian American literature that uses an extratextual prop--say, the (fictious) unity of "Asian American history" or "Asian American experience"--to give the category coherence.

1 comment:

E. M. Selinger said...

Catching up on your blog this morning, Tim, I was struck by how the passage you quote from Sau-ling Wong about Asian American literature resonates with issues I've been wrestling with in terms of Jewish American poetry, one of my own fields. I particularly like how Wong incorporates the interests of "a professional coalition of critics" into the definition--a move I've been reluctant to make so explicitly, but one which makes oodles of sense in my own context.

Anyway, if you have a minute, you might take a look at some of the questions & arguments about "secular Jewish poetry" going on over at my Big Jewish Blog (http://abigjewishblog.blogspot.com) and see if you find any points of congruence or departure. And thanks for the tip!