The Asian American Avant-Garde

Universalist Aspirations in Modernist Literature and Art

Audrey Wu Clark
Book Cover

PB: $28.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1227-0
Publication: Aug 15

HC: $85.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1226-3
Publication: Aug 15

Ebook: $28.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1228-7

248 pages
6 x 9
10 figures

Examining early Asian American writers and artists as modernists

Read an excerpt from the Introduction (pdf).


The Asian American Avant-Garde is the first book-length study that conceptualizes a long-neglected canon of early Asian American literature and art. Audrey Wu Clark traces a genealogy of these writers and artists of Asian descent who strategically performed counter-universalism in short fiction, poetry, novels, and art in the United States, between the years 1882 and 1945. Responding to their contemporary period of Asian exclusion, they challenged the empirical failures of American democracy to envision a genuine, egalitarian universalism that still has yet to come.

Believing in the promise of an inclusive America, these avant-gardists critiqued racism as well as institutionalized art. Clark examines racial outsiders including Isamu Noguchi, Dong Kingman and Yun Gee to show how they engaged with modernist ideas, particularly cubism. She draws comparisons between writers such as Sui Sin Far and Carlos Bulosan with modernist luminaries like Stein, Eliot, Pound, and Proust.

Acknowledging the anachronism of the term “Asian American” with respect to these avant-gardists, Clark attempts to reconstruct it. The Asian American Avant-Garde explores the ways in which these artists and writers responded to their racialization and the Orientalism that took place in modernist writing.

A title in the American Literatures Initiative.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Toward an Asian American Modernism
1. Chinatown as Universal Region in Sui Sin Far’s Mrs. Spring Fragrance
2. “Little Postage Stamps of Native Soil”: The Modernist Haiku during Japanese Exclusion
3. Renewing America in Dhan Gopal Mukerji’s Caste and Outcast and Younghill Kang’s East Goes West
4. Popular Front Politics and Nonlinear Temporality in Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart

Conclusion: Asian American Universalism and the Radicalism of Performing “Assimilation” during Asian Exclusion

Works Cited

About the Author(s)

Audrey Wu Clark is an Assistant Professor of English at the United States Naval Academy.


In the Series

  • Asian American History and Culture edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee

    Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Vú, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.