George Mason University
Department of Modern & Classical Languages

Fall 2003: CHINESE 328 – Asian American Women Writers

Class Meeting Time:      T R 3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Class Meeting Place:     Innovation Hall 319
Instructor:                     Alexandra R. Wagner
Office Location:            Thompson Hall 235 I
Office Hours:                Tuesdays 12:15 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. or by appointment
Phone:                          (703) 993-1823


Course Description & Objectives:
This course is an introduction to selected works by Asian American women writers of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, and Korean descent. Literary analysis will focus on themes, form, style, language, and structure of a variety of works, mainly short stories, excerpts of novels and selected novels. The course seeks to assess the significance and role of the writings as part of (ethnic) American and Women’s literature. We will explore questions of identity formation and/or disintegration and how they are rooted in issues of gender, social status, ethnicity, community, geography, and generational conflict. The course will also consider the texts both as part of an endeavor by Asian American women writers to create individualistic works, on the one hand, and to maintain a sense of identity as a group of writers with shared interests, on the other. Finally, the question of what it means to be an Asian American Woman writer will be discussed to gauge the meaning of such categories. Primary readings will be supplemented by a number of critical articles that are chosen to further deepen our understanding and exploration of these issues.
Course objectives:
1) To introduce a variety of writings by Asian American women writers and to explore the breadth of those writings from artistic and historical perspectives
2) To enable students to analyze and discuss literary texts by familiarizing them with basic approaches and concepts used in literary study
3) To acquaint students with some of the critical issues relevant to the study of Asian American literature in general and Asian American Women writing in specific

Required Books (available at the GMU Bookstore):
Sylvia Watanabe and Carol Bruchac, eds., Home to Stay : Asian American Women's Fiction. The Greenfield Review Press, 1990.
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior.
Joy Kogawa, Obasan.
Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine.

Course Requirements
Regular attendance, thorough preparation of reading and writing assignments, participation in classroom discussions, exercises, and the upkeep of a reading response journal are required to obtain a satisfactory grade. Students are expected to attend all classes and to be on time. No exceptions will be made. For the midterm exam each student is required to write a short paper on a literary work of interest to the student and pertaining to the course subject. Students are required to submit a proposal outlining their paper topic and approach to the instructor. The final exam will be in form of essay questions.

1.    Classroom attendance and participation in discussions:
Students are expected to attend all sessions except in case of emergencies. Participation includes the thorough preparation of all readings, willing participation in classroom discussions, and the completion of any other assignments that might be required of them.

2.    Reading response journal:
Students are required to keep a reading response journal, in which they should a) record their reactions, thoughts, and questions regarding the texts, and b) consider the texts’ literary elements, such as language, style, form, narrative strategy, narrative voice, as well as the texts’ possible theme(s) and purpose. In order to guide students’ responses, the instructor might suggest more specific questions to consider when reading the assigned texts. Keeping a response journal is beneficial to the reading process as well as to articulating thoughts and reactions to the text. It also provides a solid basis for  productive classroom discussions. At the beginning of each session, one copy of the journal's entry should be submitted to the instructor. The entry can be in an abbreviated style, but should reveal the student's familiarity with the text and a thorough contemplation of at least some of its aspects.
Here are some general categories students may consider while reading the primary texts and when noting down responses after finishing the readings. These categories are meant to help articulate and organize reading responses. Students do not have to limit themselves to these categories:
1) purpose and meaning
2) language and style
3) narrative strategy and structure or composition
4) narrative voice
5) aspects of identity, gender, ethnicity, and culture
5) your questions about the text
Another approach to a response could be to focus on and discuss one passage, paragraph, or sentence that particularly draws the reader's attention (whether in a positive or negative way).
Students should be able to illustrate all their observations and comments with examples.

3.    Midterm paper (5-8 pages):
For the midterm exam each student is required to write a short paper on a literary work of interest to the student and pertaining to the course subject. Students are required to submit a proposal outlining their paper topic and approach to the instructor. For more information about how to approach the writing of a paper, or if you would like help with improving your writing skills in general, please feel free to take advantage of the offerings provided by GMU's excellent Writing Center. You can find a host of information at

4.    Book Review
At the end of the semester students have to submit a book review of one of the novels we have read. More details will be given in class.

5.    Final in-class essay exam:
The Final exam will consist of an in-class essay exam covering the semester's material. More details will be given in class.
If you would like to know more about how to approach the writing of in-class essays, the Writing Center provides advice and suggestions at
Weekly Routine
The class meets twice a week. During the first part of each session the instructor will give brief lectures to provide the historical and critical context to the readings we will discuss in the second part of the session. Students’ responses and comments on the readings noted in their response journal serve as the basis for discussion.
Honor Code
The George Mason University Honor Code is in effect throughout the entire duration of the course and applies to all course work carried out inside and outside the classroom. It is the responsibility of each student to be familiar with the GMU Honor System and Code as laid out in the Student Handbook. Please refer to for detailed information.

Final grades are composed as follows:

Class Participation                20 %
Reading Response Journal    20 %
Midterm Paper                     20 %
Book Review                       15%
Final Exam                           25 %

Session Schedule

[HTS = Home to Stay]


Week 1
Tue, August 26

- Introduction to the Course and its Procedures
- Key Concepts, Ideas, Terminology, Goals
- Discussion: Wendell Aycock: "Hyphen-nation"


- stories by Sui Sin Far/ Edith Maude Eaton (online, details in class)
Thur, August 28
- The Chinese American Experience
- Sui Sin Far/ Edith Maude Eaton:
Pioneer Asian American Women Writer
- Discussion: The Conflict between Assimilation
and Assertion of Ethnic Identity; Gender, Social Status, Race
- in HTS: Maxine Hong Kingston, excerpt from China Men (2-7)
- begin reading Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
Week 2
Tue, September 2

- Lives and Histories
- Jade Snow Wong's 1950s bestseller Fifth Chinese Daughter

- Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior (chapters "No Name Woman," "White Tigers")
Thur, September 4
- Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
- discuss chapters "No Name Woman," "White Tigers"


- Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior (chapters "Shaman," "At the Western Palace")
Week 3
Tue, September 9

- Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior cont'd
- discuss chapters "Shaman," "At the Western Palace"

- Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior (chapter "A Song for A Barbarian Reed Pipe")
Thur, September 11
- Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior cont'd
- discuss chapter "A Song for A Barbarian Reed Pipe"
- Criticism and Polemics in Asian American Literary Circles: The "Chinese American Autobiographical Controversy"

- in HTS: Gish Jen, "The White Umbrella;"
Sarah Lau, "Long Way Home;"
Fae Myenne Ng, "A Red Sweater;"
Amy Tan, "Double Face"
Week 4
Tue, September 16

- final discussion The Woman Warrior
- Complex Relationships and their Voices:
In Search of Places and Identities
- in HTS: Marie Hara, "1895: The Honeymoon Hotel"
- begin reading Joy Kogawa, Obasan
Thur, September 18

- The Japanese American Experience

- in HTS: Hisaye Yamamoto, "Wilshire Bus;" Hisaye Yamamoto, "The High-heeled Shoes, a Memoir"
- Maire Mullins, "Esther's Smile: Silence and action in Hisaye Yamamoto's 'Wilshire Bus' (online)
- continue reading Joy Kogawa, Obasan
Week 5
Tue, September 23

- Hisaye Yamamoto

in HTS: Wakako Yamauchi, "An the Soul Shall Dance;" Wakako Yamauchi, "Maybe"
Thur, September 25
- Wakako Yamauchi

- read Joy Kogawa, Obasan (chapters 1-13)
Week 6
Tue, September 30

- Joy Kogawa, Obasan
discuss chapters 1-13

- read Joy Kogawa, Obasan (chapters 14-23)
Thur, October 2
- Joy Kogawa, Obasan cont'd
- discuss chapters 14-23
- Fragmentation of Identity and its Relation to the Experience of Place and forced Dislocation
- read Joy Kogawa, Obasan (chapters 24-end)

Week 7
Tue, October 7

- Joy Kogawa, Obasan cont'd
- discuss chapters 24-end
- read Helena Grice, "Reading the nonverbal: The indices of space, time, tactility, and taciturnity in Joy Kogawa's Obasan" (online)
Thur, October 9

- Joy Kogawa, Obasan cont'd
- final discussion Obasan
- in HTS: Linda Ty-Casper, "Hills, Sky, Longing"
Week 8
Tue, October 14
(Tuesday classes do not meet this week)

Thur, October 16
- The Filipino American Experience

- in HTS: Jessica Hagedorn, "The Blossoming of Bong Bong;" Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, "Waiting for Papa's Return"
Week 9
Tue, October 21

- Linda Ty-Casper
- Jessica Hagedorn: Multiculturalism, Materialism, Belonging: At Home in the World?

Thur, October 23
- The Korean American Experience
excerpt from Dictée
Week 10
Tue, October 28

- Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictée

read Anne Anlin Cheng, "Memory and anti-documentary desire in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictée" (online)
- begin reading Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine
Thur, October 30
- Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictée: Formation and Disintegration of Identity

- In HTS: Bharati Mukherjee, "The Management of Grief"
- Bharati Mukherjee, "A Wedding" (online)
- continue reading Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine
Week 11
Tue, November 4

- The Indian American Experience
- Bharati Mukherjee
- Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine (chapters 1-13)
Thur, November 6
- Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine
- discussion of chapters 1-13
- Immigrant Experiences and Images of Immigrant Women
- Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine (chapters 14- end)
Week 12
Tue, November 11

- Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine cont'd
- discussion of chapters 14 - end
- Old Life, New Life
- John Hoppe, "The technologies hybrid as post-American: Cross-cultural genetics in Jasmine" (online)
Thur, November 13
- Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine cont'd
- The Jasmine Controversy: Exoticization and Perpetuation of the "Success Myth" at the expense of an authentic female voice?
in HTS: Tahari Naqvi, "Brave We Are," Arun Mukherjee, "Visiting Places;" Chitra Divakaruni, "Doors" 
Week 13
Tue, November 18

- Struggling with women's roles and role expectations
- review all readings
Thur, November 20
Mothers, Sisters, Friends, Women: Female Voices Staking their Claims
- review all readings
Week 14
Tue, November 25

- Final Discussion: Asian American Women's Writing Between Ethnic Unity and Diversity

Thur, November 27

Week 15
Tue, December 2


Thur, December 4

Tuesday, December 16
1:30 p.m. - 4:15 p.m.

FINAL EXAM (in our classroom)