Narrative Theory and Asian American Literature
- Yoon Sun LeeYoon Sun LeeDepartment of English, Wellesley College
The goal of narratology is to construct models or statements that apply universally to narratives as such, or to recognized types of narrative, defined primarily through formal characteristics. In contrast, Asian American literature is defined by reference to a social group with a concrete historical existence. Though the two enterprises may seem to have little in common, their rapprochement can be productive. Categories from both classical narrative theory as well as more recent cognitive narratology can help identify and compare important features of Asian American narratives. Conversely, Asian American literature shows how narratology can build on the knowledge that narrative is a social practice, and that its formal analysis requires the consideration of power, kinship, diaspora, and racial embodiment, as well as gender. For example, the relation between the narrator and narratee plays a major role in canonical works of Asian American literature; narratological analysis benefits from examining how this relation is shaped by generational and spatial dislocation, as well as claims to referential truth.