CFP: [Collections] Modern Fiction Studies Special Issue - Theorizing Asian American Literature

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Stephen Hong Sohn
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Call for Papers: Upcoming Special Issue

Theorizing Asian American Fiction

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 (

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Received on Tue May 13 2008 - 12:59:39 EDT