Alternate Asia/Am War Histories
Is reality in the eye of the beholder? Do people who have undergone widely discrepant processes of (racial, gender, sexual, class) subjectivation see different things, indeed live in different worlds? In what ways do cultural disparities and conflictual historical experiences lead to not only different perceptions of reality, but multiple realities? Anchored in two wars—World War II, from which the US emerged as a world power, and the Vietnam War, America’s notoriously “unwinnable war”—this course focuses on Asian/American entanglement and the other worlds to which it gives rise. There are at least two Japans that emerged in World War II: the imperial power that might have conquered the US, as imagined for example in the alternate history of The Man in the High Castle; and the lost land of origin that has brought trauma on its “heirs,” the Japanese interned by the US and comfort women in Asia, who have their own stories to tell. Similarly, the story of the Vietnam War, indelible in US memory as indicated by repeated cultural renderings and political debates, has been told exclusively from an American viewpoint. The Sympathizer, only recently published, promises to tell another story: not only of the US in Vietnam as seen by the Vietnamese, but of the Vietnamese in America, indeed of at least two Vietnams. What realities are created by different, even opposing, perspectives like these? What might we learn from alternate (hi)stories about the political functions and ontological power of narrative in its various modes, in fiction, film, poetry, and history? Texts include World at War, The Man in the High Castle, No-No Boy, Comfort Woman, Oro Plata Mata, Apocalypse Now, protest poetry, veteran testimony, The Pentagon Papers, the Vietnamese Oral History Project, The Sympathizer, and Maya Lin. Assignments include weekly written response, comparative analysis, research prospectus, and historical/literary analysis.