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The period from 1930 to 1965 marks a span of dramatic transformation within the United States, from the Great Depression to the new social movements of the 1960s. For Asian American history, the start of this period is deeply marked by Asian exclusion, formalized in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act, and, by its end, the emergence of today’s Asian America, remade after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the legislative culmination of multiple efforts to repeal exclusion. On the global stage, these years witnessed dispersed shifts of power that literally remapped the decolonizing world: from the decline of territorial colonialism in the 1930s to the rise of third-world liberation in the 1960s. And in the middle of this period, World War II erupted, sharpening political alignments that would be hastily redrawn in the about-face of the Cold War, which ignited hotspots in Asia after World War II. This volume seeks to draw out the national and global dimensions of the literary output in this period of transitions, realignments, remappings, and remakings.
In Culture and Imperialism (1993) Edward W. Said argues that “the most prominent characteristics of modernist culture, which we have tended to derive from purely internal dynamics in Western society, include a response to external pressures on culture from the imperium.” This chapter explores ways in which modernism is a literary historical development of significance for Asian American literature, and vice versa. As Said notes, it may have once seemed a coincidence that the onset of Western modernism was roughly in parallel with the delegitimation of its colonialism, but the case for connections may be hard to dismiss. Asian American literature, then, can be a crucial site for grasping how modernism and decolonization converged and were correlated. And a key way that that correlated convergence becomes evident is through acts of historical recovery, both of texts and within texts.
This volume is devoted to Asian American Literature between 1930 to 1965, a period of immense social, historical, and cultural transformations that continue to shape the conditions of our world. From the Great Depression to the Second World War to the Civil Rights Movement to landmark immigrations reforms, Asian American literature provides unique and insightful perspectives on these historical developments, all while creatively engaging with globally-dispersed decolonization movements. Each chapter, written a by leading figures in their fields, demonstrates how Asian American writing affectingly reveals our complex world and its contested pasts. Case studies of major authors of this era show this as a time when the figure of the Asian American author became newly significant. This volume provides historical grounding, theoretical interventions, and nuanced textual analysis of Asian American literature in this period.
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