Foreign Accents examines the various transpacific signifying strategies by which poets of Chinese descent in the U.S. have sought to represent cultural tradition in their articulations of an ethnic subjectivity, in Chinese as well as in English. In assessing both the dynamics and the politics of poetic expression by writers engaging with a specific cultural heritage, the study develops a general theory of ethnic literary production that clarifies the significance of "Asian American" literature in relation to both other forms of U.S. "minority discourse," as well as canonical "American" literature more generally. At the same time, it maps an expanded textual arena and a new methodology for Asian American literary studies that can be further explored by scholars of other traditions.
Yao discusses a range of works, including Ezra Pound's Cathay and the Angel Island poems. He examines the careers of four contemporary Chinese/American poets: Ha Jin, Li-young Lee, Marilyn Chin, and John Yau, each of whom bears a distinctive relationship to the linguistic and cultural tradition he or she seeks to represent. Specifically, Yao investigates the range of rhetorical and formal strategies by which these writers have sought to incorporate Chinese culture and, especially, language in their works. Combining such analysis with extensive social contextualization, Foreign Accents delineates an historical poetics of Chinese American verse from the early twentieth century to the present.
About the Author
Steven G. Yao is Associate Professor of English at Hamilton College. He is the author of Translation and the Languages of Modernism and the coeditor of Sinographies: Writing China and Pacific Rim Modernisms.
Table of Contents
To Be (or Not to Be) the Poet: The Cultural Politics of Verse in Asian American Literature
Toward a Pre-History of Asian American Verse: Pound, Cathay, and the Poetics of Chineseness
Chinese/American Verse in Transnational Perspective: Racial Protest and the Poems of Angel Island
From the Language of Race to the Poetics of Ethnicity: The Rise of Asian American Verse
'A Voice from China': Ha Jin and the Cultural Politics of Anti-Socialist Realism
The Precision of Persimmons: Li-young Lee, Ethic Identity, and the Limits of Lyric Testimony
'Are you hate speech or are you a lullaby?': Marilyn Chin and the Politics of Form in Chinese/American Verse
'the owner of one pock-marked tongue': John Yau and the Logic of Ethnic Abstraction
Conclusion: Chinese/American Verse in the Age of Post-ethnicity?