The Americas of Asian-American literature: Nationalism, gender, and sexuality in Bulosan's "America Is in the Heart", Jen's "Typical American", and Hagedorn's "Dogeaters"
My readings of three Asian American novels illuminate two competing "ways of knowing"--the ideologies of nationalism and gender--and the way in which they saliently structure these novels' representations of both American and Asian American collective identity. Combining historical research with insights from feminist and postcolonial studies, I examine the relation between these novels' critiques of the United States and their depictions of normative genders and sexualities. In my reading of Carlos Bulosan's America Is in the Heart, I examine the author's "dream of fraternity" portrayed as an absent and desired eventuality to be located in various sites, one of which is America. Women are integral to the formation and mobilization of this collective identity even as they become markers of loss, absence, and necessity. I scrutinize the ways in which this gender-exclusive notion of community both depends upon and marginalizes women. In my chapter on Typical American, I explore Jen's satire of "typical American" narratives that champion boundless individualism. By highlighting the negative effects of boundary-breaking behavior, Jen offers a skeptical perspective on the individual's ability to craft his/her personal success, much less solve the problems of the world. She focuses upon the limits of Western progressive narratives not least by revealing their gendered and racial biases. In my final chapter, I employ Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters to illustrate the transnational legacy of the United States imperialist practices. The more permeable boundaries between cultures requires that we reassess a Filipino nationalist emphasis on "pure nativity." Integrating insights from spectatorship theory, I propose an alternative notion of postcolonial resistance that recognizes the native's capacity to transform Western commodities and to put forward a critique of the West from within the dynamics of consumption.
0453: Womens studies
0323: American studies