English R1A

Reading and Composition: Crazy Rich Asians? Minority Models in the Literature of the Asian Diaspora

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2019 Chiang, Cheng-Chai
MWF 1-2 262 Dwinelle

Book List

Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung: Dictee; Kureishi, Hanif: The Buddha of Suburbia; Kwan, Kevin: Crazy Rich Asians; Liew, Sonny: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

Other Readings and Media

All other materials—selected poetry, short fiction, and drama—will be made available on bCourses. 

We'll screen a few films—Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet, Leste Chen's Eternal Summer, and Jon Chu's Crazy Rich Asians—as well as selected episodes from Fresh Off The Boat


Taking the meteoric success of Crazy Rich Asians as a cultural phenomenon as its point of departure, this course studies and interrogates the enduring myths and persistent stereotypes that inflect the history of Asian racial formation in a transnational context. Oscillating between figures of the “model minority” associated with economic acumen and the inassimilable alien ineligible for citizenship, the long history of diasporic Asian racialization is fraught with paradoxes that testify to the complex histories of imperialism, colonialism, and Orientalism in which it is enmeshed.

Ranging across literary and cinematic texts in diverse cultural and geopolitical settings—from Singapore to Taiwan, from postcolonial London to Asian America—we will engage with “minority models” of aesthetic expression that seek to transform hegemonic terms of ethnic representation. Some of the topics we’ll consider along the way include: a poetics of reticence that resists ostensibly progressive but exclusionary forms of queer visibility; bearing witness to historical trauma by way of mythic sources and counterfactual archives; the psychic costs of assimilation and racial forgetting; translation as a mode of mediating between forms of linguistic and historical incommensurability; the role of comedy in reiterating and subverting stereotypes of the hyperaffluent Asian elite and the immigrant family chasing the “American dream".

As we reckon with how our texts intervene in longstanding representational legacies, we will also hone our critical reading and writing skills. Throughout the semester, students will develop their capacity for forceful argumentation by writing, peer-reviewing, and revising several short essays. 

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