Literary Gestures

The Aesthetic in Asian American Writing

Edited by Rocío G. Davis and Sue-Im Lee
Outstanding Academic Title, Choice, 2006
Book Cover

PB: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-365-9
Publication: Nov 05

HC: $81.50
EAN: 978-1-59213-364-2
Publication: Nov 05

Ebook: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-366-6
Publication: Nov 05

248 pages
6 x 9

Form as function in Asian American literature

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Literary Gestures: The Aesthetic in Asian American Writing contests the dominance of materialist and cultural critiques in Asian American literary discourse by re-centering critical attention around issues of aesthetics and literary form. Collapsing the perceived divisions between the "ethnic" and the "aesthetic" in Asian American literary criticism, the eleven original essays in this volume provide theoretically sophisticated and formally sensitive readings of works in prose, poetry, and drama. These contributions foreground discussions of genre, canonicity, narrative, and literary value to show how aesthetic and formal concerns play an important part in the production and consumption of these works. By calling for a more balanced mode of criticism, this collection invites students and scholars to reinvest in the literary not as a negation of the sociopolitical but as a complementary strategy in reading and understanding Asian American literature.


"The editors and authors have done an excellent job of offering essays that are individually and collectively on point, consistently illuminating, and thoroughly enjoyable—the volume, with respect to this last point, reflects the pleasures and power of aesthetic investigation of which it speaks."Kandice Chuh, University of Maryland, College Park

"An exciting collection on a subject of immediate importance in several areas of the humanities, Literary Gestures is a powerful response to the call in recent years for the return to the aesthetic, with a difference. Rocío Davis and Sue-Im Lee have produced a path-breaking book on the aesthetic in Asian American writing that immediately transforms the field. A group of outstanding scholar/critics provide reassessments of a range of established and new writings and on compelling topics that are central to the areas of cultural studies, U.S. Studies, and Pan-Pacific literatures. This is essential for anyone working in these interrelated fields."Emory Elliott, University Professor, University of California, Riverside

"A brilliant introduction frames the essays... This groundbreaking book of essays is a must for any scholar of Asian American literary studies, or indeed, ethnic literature in general.... Essential."Choice

"These scholars effectively critique contemporary multicultural criticism’s inability or unwillingness to encompass the aesthetic." Melus

Table of Contents

1. Sue-Im Lee, "The Aesthetic in Asian American Literary Discourse"

Part 1: Asian American Critical Discourse in Academia
2. Mark Chiang, "Autonomy and Representation: Aesthetics and the Crisis of Asian American Cultural Politics in the Controversy over Blu's Hanging"
3. Iyko Day, "Interventing Innocence: Race, 'Resistance,' and the Asian North American Avant-Garde"

Part 2: Aesthetics and Ethnicity
4. Mita Banerjee, "The Asian American in a Turtleneck: Fusing the Aesthetic and the Didactic in Maxine Hong Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey"
5. Christina Mar, "The Language of Ethnicity: John Yau's Poetry and the Ethnic/Aesthetic Divide"
6. Patricia P. Chu, "'A Flame against a Sleeping Lake of Petrol': Form and the Sympathetic Witness in Selvadurai's Funny Boy and Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost"
7. Gita Rajan, "Poignant Pleasures: Feminist Ethics as Aesthetics in Jhumpa Lahiri and Anita Rao Badami"

Part 3: Intertexts: Asian American Writing and Literary Movements
8. Josephine Nock-Hee Park, "'A Loose Horse': Asian American Poetry and the Aesthetics of the Ideogram"
9. Donatella Izzo, "'A New Rule for the Imagination': Rewriting Modernism in Bone"

Part 4: Rewriting Form, Reading for New Expression
10. Rocio G. Davis, "Performing Dialogic Subjectivities: The Aesthetic Project of Autobiographical Collaboration in Days and Nights in Calcutta"
11. Celestine Woo, "Bicultural World Creation: Laurence Yep, Cynthia Kadohata, and Asian American Fantasy"
12. Kimberly M. Jew, "Dismantling the Realist Character in Velina Hasu Houston's Tea and David Henry Hwang's FOB"

Notes on Contributors

About the Author(s)

Rocío G. Davis is Associate Professor of American and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Navarra and author of Transcultural Reinventions: Asian American and Asian Canadian Short-Story Cycles.

Sue-Im Lee is Assistant Professor of English at Temple University.