Center for Asian American Studies
Center for Asian American Studies

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials

Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst


AAS 320C • Contemp Asian American Novels

32485 • Spring 2021
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM CBA 4.324
(also listed as E 343T)

E 343T  l  Contemporary Asian American Novels


Instructor:  Schlund-Vials, C.

Unique #:  36140

Semester:  Spring 2021

Cross-lists:  AAS 320C, 32485


Prerequisites:  Nine semester hours of coursework in English or rhetoric and writing.


Description:  In 2016, critic/author Viet Thanh Nguyen became the first Asian American recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel, The Sympathizer, which the esteemed selection committee averred was a “layered immigrant tale told in the wry, confessional voice of a ‘man of two minds’ – and two countries, Vietnam and the United States.”  Despite the significance of Nguyen’s achievement as a representational  “literary first,” and notwithstanding his current position as a highly prominent U.S. author, it is this Pulitzer Prize committee’s characterization of The Sympathizer as a “layered immigrant tale” narrated by a protagonist of “two minds” which foregrounds a semester-long consideration of the past/present state and stakes of contemporary Asian American novels.


Accordingly, this in-depth examination of contemporary Asian American novels through aesthetic “layering” and transnational “two-mindedness” begins with Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1976) and concludes with Nguyen’s aforementioned The Sympathizer.  It likewise involves an engagement with a diverse array of post-1945 U.S. authors whose novels figure keenly in a now-established, recognizeable Asian American literary canon.  Consistent with Lisa Lowe’s evocative characterization of such production via “hybridity, multiplicity, and heterogeneity,” this course uses as both central schema and guiding frame the ways in which contemporary Asian American novels reflect and refract the diverse ethnicities, transnational histories, multi-sited movements, and global conflicts responsible for bringing Asian American authorship “into being.”


Texts:  Book-length works (all available as e-texts) include Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Julia Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic, Jessica Hagedorn’s Dream Jungle, Monique Truong’s Bitter in the Mouth, Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (graphic novel), and Samira Ahmed’s Internment.


This is a Rotation Hybrid section.  Students enrolled will be divided into groups and notified by the instructor which class days will take place in the physical classroom and which classes will occur online.


Requirements & Grading:  Participation in classroom discussion and  discussion board contributions (20%); Weekly Responses, 20%; Short Midterm Paper (4-6 pages), 30%; and Final Paper/Project (8-10 pages), 30%.

E 316M • American Literature-Wb

35750-35815 • Spring 2021
Internet; Synchronous

E 316M  l  American Literature-WB


Instructor:  Schlund-Vials, C

Unique #:  35750-35815

Semester:  Spring 2021

Cross-lists:  n/a


Prerequisites:  One of the following: E 303C (or 603A), RHE 306, 306Q, or T C 303C (or 603A).


Description:  In The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations that Made the American People (1952), Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Oscar Handlin confessed, “Once I thought to write a history of America.  Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history.”  This survey of U.S. literature, which begins in the 17th century and encompasses the 21st century, accesses Handlin’s immigrant-focused characterization to contemplate and recalibrate the complex role migration has played in the making of American personhood, selfhood, and belonging.  Acknowledging from the outset that this movement-oriented representation disremembers the catastrophic conquest/removal of Native peoples and the forced relocation of enslaved subjects, this survey takes seriously and centrally the possibilities and limitations of Handlin’s characterization of U.S. history and nationhood.  Such contradictions – wherein e pluribus unum (“out of many, one”) visions of wholesale inclusion uneasily exist alongside past/present realities marked by state-sanctioned discrimination and dominant-held exclusions – are the foundation of this course’s multifaceted consideration of U.S. literature as a diverse canon marked by demographic, social, cultural, and political movements.


Consistent with its intended intellectual aims, pedagogical objectives, and learning outcomes, this course will enable students to develop and hone their critical thinking skills via close reading, creative critical thinking, and writing.  Lectures and lecture segments will be asynchronous and available on Canvas.  Mandatory weekly discussion sessions will be held synchronously over Zoom.


Texts:  Book-length works (all available as e-texts) include Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An Amerian Slave, Written by Himself, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, Arthur Miller’s Death of Salesman (play), and Lila Quintero’s Dark Room: A Memoir of Black and White (graphic novel).  In addition to these texts, the course will utilize a Canvas course packet including indigenous creation stories and works by authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Chesnutt, Zitkala-Sa, Kate Chopin, Abraham Cahan, Henry James, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Alison Bechdel, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Ocean Vuong (along with many others).


Requirements & Grading:  Reading quizzes and lecture exercises (25%); Discussion section and discussion board contributions (25%); Written work, including critical and creative responses, close-reading analyses, and more (50%).

AAS 314 • Asian American Lit & Culture

31480 • Fall 2020
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM PAR 201

Check back for updates.

E 396L • Postcolonial Theory

35225 • Fall 2020
Meets M 6:00PM-9:00PM ETC 2.114

Instructor: Cathy J. Schlund-Vials

Envisioned as a general introduction to postcolonial theory and literature, this seminar takes centrally the history, politics, polemics, debates, and dynamics which brought “postcolonial studies” as a distinct interdiscipline “into being.” To further our engagement with postcolonial studies and its literary resonances, we will consider a wide range of theorists and authors whose work on race, class, gender, nation, liberation, diaspora, and human rights accentuate the capaciousness of a still-shifting interdiscipline.


The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (2nd edition, Routledge) / Edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin

The Intimacies of Four Continents (Lisa Lowe)

Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Rob Nixon)

Wretched of the Earth (Frantz Fanon)

Discourse on Colonialism (Aimé Césaire)

Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)

Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

The God of Small Things (Arundhathi Roy)

Animal’s People (Indra Sinha)

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable  (Amitav Ghosh)

Breath, Eyes, Memory (Edwidge Danticat)

Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)




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