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A graduate course in transpacific American literature in Spring 2020

Following the paradigm shift in American studies from the transatlantic to the transpacific, this course investigates how transpacific movements have informed and reshaped American literary imagination from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Beginning with Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick and Jack London’s Tales of the Pacific, we examine how the American waling experience and the changing constructions of the South Pacific have served as an extension of the American westward movement and expansion of Anglo-American capitalism into the Pacific, which encompasses Pacific Islands, Oceania, and the Asia Pacific. We then scrutinize Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters as an alternative way of approaching American experiences, from the Asia Pacific to North America and from the west coast to the east coast, which foregrounds the process of American nation-building and empire-building. Meanwhile, we also focus on how the Cold War unfolds in the transpacific spaces, with special attention to David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, Chang-Rae Lee’s A Gesture Life, Tim O’Brien’s Going after Cacciato, and Viet Nguyen’s The Sympathizer. We conclude by exploring two speculative fictions on our planetary and technological futures with transpacific twists—Karen Yamashita’s Through the Arch of the Rain Forest and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.  



Yuan Shu