The Shapes and Styles of Asian American Prose Fiction

The Shapes and Styles of Asian American Prose Fiction

The Shapes and Styles of Asian American Prose Fiction

The Shapes and Styles of Asian American Prose Fiction

Synopsis

This is the first formal literary criticism on Asian American literature. The existing studies emphasize sociological and historical backgrounds of the writers with only general summaries of individual works. The shapes and individual styles of prominent Asian American writers are analyzed in detail to see if they fit standards given to us by established critics like Aristotle, Henry James, Percy Lubbock, and Wayne Booth.Comparisons to European and American writers are included to illuminate and provide insight into these representative writers. Their works are considered as literary achievements first and cultural artifacts second.

Excerpt

The study of Asian American literature is a new development in the field of American literature. Despite the fact that Asian Americans have lived in this country for more than one hundred and forty years, there are only one or two books on Asian American literature on most university shelves. Until recently this body of writing has been ignored by most critics who believe that it lacks aesthetic value. Linguistic and cultural barriers have also hindered the recognition of Asian American literature. Today, however, it seems evident that Asian American literature is beginning to find its rightful place.

Thus far, the few existing studies have emphasized the sociological and historical background of the relevant works while offering general summaries of individual texts. The purpose of this study is to examine the artistic qualities of the works selected. This study is undertaken with Percy Lubbock's words in mind: "The author of the book was a craftsman, the critic must overtake him at his work and see how the book was made." (Lubbock, p. 274)) To do this, however, we must understand the cultural context in which such books were made. According to Henry James, "a novel is in its broadest definition a personal, direct impression of life." If we accept this definition, we should try to understand the personal and cultural background of these "impressions." Some background needs to be provided so that a reader unfamiliar with Asian customs will be able to understand the significance and symbolism of certain situations in the novels. As Hsaio- min Han points out, "A large number of Asian American literary works are deeply concerned with immigration experiences, with special emphasis on the inevitable conflict . . .

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