This study traces the shaping presence of cultural interactions, arguing that American literature has become a hybridization of Eastern and Western literary traditions. Cultural exchanges between the East and West began in the early decades of the nineteenth century as American transcendentalists explored Eastern philosophies and arts. Hakutani examines this influence through the works of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. He further demonstrates the East-West exchange through discussions of the interactions by modernists such as Yone Noguchi, Yeats, Pound, Camus, and Kerouac.
Finally, he argues that African American literature, represented by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and James Emanuel, is postmodern. Their works exhibit their concerted efforts to abolish marginality and extend referentiality, exemplifying the postmodern East-West crossroads of cultures. A fuller understanding of their work is gained by situating them within this cultural conversation. The writings of Wright, for example, take on their full significance only when they are read, not as part of a national literature, but as an index to an evolving literature of cultural exchanges.
Daughters of a British father and a Chinese mother, Edith and Winnifred Eaton pursued wildly different paths. While Edith wrote stories of downtrodden Chinese immigrants under the pen name Sui Sin Far, Winnifred presented herself as Japanese American and published Japanese romance novels in English under the name Onoto Watanna. In this invigorating reappraisal of the vision and accomplishments of the Eaton sisters, Dominika Ferens departs boldly from the dichotomy that has informed most commentary on them: Edith's "authentic" representations of Chinese North Americans versus Winnifred's "phony" portrayals of Japanese characters and settings.
Arguing that Edith as much as Winnifred constructed her persona along with her pen name, Ferens considers the fiction of both Eaton sisters as ethnography. Edith and Winnifred Eaton suggests that both authors wrote through the filter of contemporary ethnographic discourse on the Far East and also wrote for readers hungry for "authentic" insight into the morals, manners, and mentality of an exotic other.
Ferens traces two distinct discursive traditions–-missionary and travel writing–-that shaped the meanings of "China" and "Japan" in the nineteenth century. She shows how these traditions intersected with the unconventional literary careers of the Eaton sisters, informing the sober, moralistic tone of Edith's stories as well as Winnifred's exotic narrative style, plots, settings, and characterizations.
Bringing to the Eatons' writings a contemporary understanding of the racial and textual politics of ethnographic writing, this important account shows how these two very different writers claimed ethnographic authority, how they used that authority to explore ideas of difference, race, class and gender, and how their depictions of nonwhites worked to disrupt the process of whites' self-definition.
England's Asian Renaissance
Su Fang Ng University of Delaware Press, 2022 Library of Congress PR129.A78E54 2021 | Dewey Decimal 820.9325
England's Asian Renaissance explores how Asian knowledges, narratives, and customs inflected early modern English literature. Just as Asian imports changed England's tastes and enriched the English language, Eastern themes, characters, and motifs helped shape the country's culture and contributed to its national identity. Questioning long-standing dichotomies between East and West and embracing a capacious understanding of translatio as geographic movement, linquistic transformation, and cultural grafting, the collection gives pride of place to convergence, approximation, and hybridity, thus underscoring the radical mobility of early modern culture. In so doing, England's Asian Renaissance also moves away from entrenched narratives of Western cultural sovereignty to think anew England's debts to Asia.
Published by the University of Delaware Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
This book offers a pioneering study of Asian cultures that officially escaped from French colonisation but nonetheless were steeped in French civilisation in the colonial era and had heavily French-influenced, largely francophone literatures. It raises a number of provocative questions, including whether colonisation is the ultimate requirement for a culture's being defined as francophone, or how to think about francophone literatures that emerge from Asian nations that were historically free from French domination. The ultimate result is a redefining of the Asian francophone heritage according to new, transnational paradigms.
Transference of orientalist images and identities to the American landscape and its inhabitants, especially in the West—in other words, portrayal of the West as the “Orient”—has been a common aspect of American cultural history. Place names, such as the Jordan River or Pyramid Lake, offer notable examples, but the imagery and its varied meanings are more widespread and significant. Understanding that range and significance, especially to the western part of the continent, means coming to terms with the complicated, nuanced ideas of the Orient and of the North American continent that European Americans brought to the West. Such complexity is what historical geographer Richard Francaviglia unravels in this book.
Since the publication of Edward Said’s book, Orientalism, the term has come to signify something one-dimensionally negative. In essence, the orientalist vision was an ethnocentric characterization of the peoples of Asia (and Africa and the “Near East”) as exotic, primitive “others” subject to conquest by the nations of Europe. That now well-established point, which expresses a postcolonial perspective, is critical, but Francaviglia suggest that it overlooks much variation and complexity in the views of historical actors and writers, many of whom thought of western places in terms of an idealized and romanticized Orient. It likewise neglects positive images and interpretations to focus on those of a decadent and ostensibly inferior East.
We cannot understand well or fully what the pervasive orientalism found in western cultural history meant, says Francaviglia, if we focus only on its role as an intellectual engine for European imperialism. It did play that role as well in the American West. One only need think about characterizations of American Indians as Bedouins of the Plains destined for displacement by a settled frontier. Other roles for orientalism, though, from romantic to commercial ones, were also widely in play. In Go East, Young Man, Francaviglia explores a broad range of orientalist images deployed in the context of European settlement of the American West, and he unfolds their multiple significances.
In a groundbreaking work of “New Americanist” studies, John R. Eperjesi explores the cultural and economic formation of the Unites States relationship to China and the Pacific Rim in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Eperjesi examines a variety of texts to explore the emergence of what Rob Wilson has termed the “American Pacific.” Eperjesi shows how works ranging from Frank Norris’ The Octopus to the Journal of the American Asiatic Association, from the Socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason to the travel writings of Jack and Charmain London, and from Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men to Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon—and the cultural dynamics that produced them—helped construct the myth of the American Pacific. By construing the Pacific Rim as a unified region binding together the territorial United States with the areas of Asia and the Pacific, he also demonstrates that the logic of the imperialist imaginary suggested it was not only proper but even incumbent upon the United States to exercise both political and economic influence in the region. As Donald E. Pease notes in his foreword, “by reading foreign policy and economic policy as literature, and by reconceptualizing works of American literature as extenuations of foreign policy and economic theory,” Eperjesi makes a significant contribution to studies of American imperialism.
While the socio-economic and historical aspects of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) have been extensively documented and researched, the role of the VOC in visual culture and the arts has been relatively neglected. This authoritative volume addresses various aspects of cultural exchange between the Low Countries and Asia. Increased prosperity and the flood of imported goods from Asia had a huge influence on seventeenth-century Holland. To cite some examples: when the VOC spread its merchandise throughout the various regions of Asia, Chinese decorative motives became popular in Indonesia. After the lifting of the seventeenth-century ban on the import of Christian books to Japan, a wave of interest in Dutch culture hit the country, giving rise to Hollandmania, imitation of anything Dutch.Mediating Netherlandish Art and Material Culture in Asia offers new insights into the world routes travelled by seventeenth-century Dutch visual culture, as well as the rise of Asian influence in the imagery of the Dutch Golden Age.
In this study of modernist aesthetics, Beryl Schlossman reveals how for such writers as Marcel Proust, Gustave Flaubert, and Charles Baudelaire, the Orient came to symbolize the highest aspirations of literary representation. She demonstrates that through allegory, modernism became a style itself, a style that married the ancient and the modern and that emerged as both a cause and an effect, both an ideal construct and an textual materiality, all symbolized by the Orient—land of style, place of plurality, and site of the coexistence of holy lands. Toward the end of Remembrance of Things Past, the narrator describes the act of creating a work of art as a conversion of sensation into a spiritual equivalent. By means of such allegories of “conversion,” Schlossman shows, the modernist artist disappeared within the work of art and left behind the trace of his sublime vocation, a vocation in which he was transformed, in Schlossman’s words, “into a kind of priest kneeling at the altar of beauty before the masked divinity of representation.” The author shows how allegory—the representation of the symbolic as something real—was adapted by modernist writers to reflect subjectivity while masking an authorial origin. She reveals how modernist allegory arose, as Walter Benjamin suggests, at the crossroads of history, sociology, economics, urban architecture, and art—providing a kind of map of capitalism—and was produced through the eyes of a melancholic gazing at a “monument of absence.”
Through the use of several iconic early American authors (Anne Bradstreet, James Kirkpatrick, Benjamin Franklin, and Edgar Allan Poe), Jim Egan’s Oriental Shadows: The Presence of theEast in Early American Literature explores the presence of “the East” in American writing.
The specter of the East haunted the literature of colonial British America and the new United States, from the earliest promotional pamphlets to the most aesthetically sophisticated works of art of the American Renaissance. Figures of Persia, China, Arabia, and other Oriental people, places, and things played crucial roles in many British American literary works, serving as key images in early American writers’ efforts to demonstrate that early American culture could match—and perhaps even surpass—European standards of refinement. These writers offered the East as a solution to America’s perceived inferior civilized status by suggesting that America become more civilized not by becoming more European but instead by adopting aesthetic styles and standards long associated with an East cast as superior aesthetically to both America and Europe.
In bringing to light this largely overlooked archive of images within the American literary canon, Oriental Shadows suggests that the East played a key role in the emergence of a distinctively American literary tradition and, further, that early American identity was born as much from figures of the East as it was from the colonists’ encounters with the frontier.
Chinese culture held a well-known fascination for modernist poets like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. What is less known but is made fully clear by Zhaoming Qian is the degree to which oriental culture made these poets the modernists they became. This ambitious and illuminating study shows that Orientalism, no less than French symbolism and Italian culture, is a constitutive element of Modernism. Consulting rare and unpublished materials, Qian traces Pound’s and Williams’s remarkable dialogues with the great Chinese poets—Qu Yuan, Li Bo, Wang Wei, and Bo Juyi—between 1913 and 1923. His investigation reveals that these exchanges contributed more than topical and thematic ideas to the Americans’ work and suggests that their progressively modernist style is directly linked to a steadily growing contact and affinity for similar Chinese styles. He demonstrates, for example, how such influences as the ethics of pictorial representation, the style of ellipsis, allusion, and juxtaposition, and the Taoist/Zen–Buddhist notion of nonbeing/being made their way into Pound’s pre-Fenollosan Chinese adaptations, Cathay, Lustra, and the Early Cantos, as well as Williams’s Sour Grapes and Spring and All. Developing a new interpretation of important work by Pound and Williams, Orientalism and Modernism fills a significant gap in accounts of American Modernism, which can be seen here for the first time in its truly multicultural character.
Transpacific Imaginations is a study of how American literature is enmeshed with the literatures of Asia. The book begins with Western encounters with the Pacific: Yunte Huang reads Moby Dick as a Pacific work, looks at Henry Adams’s not talking about his travels in Japan and the Pacific basin in his autobiography, and compares Mark Twain to Liang Qichao. Huang then turns to Asian American encounters with the Pacific, concentrating on the "Angel Island" poems and on works by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lawson Fusao Inada, and Araki Yasusada.
Huang’s argument that the Pacific forms American literature more than is generally acknowledged is a major contribution to our understanding of literary history. The book is in dialogue with cross-cultural studies of the Pacific and with contemporary innovative poetics. Huang has found a vehicle to join Asians and Westerners at the deepest level, and that vehicle is poetry. Poets can best imagine an ethical ground upon which different people join hands. Huang asks us to contribute to this effort by understanding the poets and writers already in the process of linking diverse peoples.