The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity in Asian American Poetry

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324 pages, 5 3/4 x 9 1/4 inches
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“As the first full-length study of Asian American poetry to be published, The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity in Asian American Poetry pays careful attention to a group of writers that have been long neglected in both Asian American studies and literary studies. With her attention to questions of language and form, to logics of racial minoritization in the United States, and to the otherness of poetry itself, Xiaojing Zhou forces us to broaden and rethink not only our conceptions of Asian American literature and American poetry but the very categories of the ‘literary’ and ‘poetic’ themselves.”—Dorothy Wang, Northwestern University

The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity is an exploration of Asian American poetry and poetics that sees both as vehicles for new conceptualizations of Asian American otherness that exceed the dichotomies of the past and refuse to settle comfortably in alterity, but rather present us with both epistemological and ethical challenges at once.”—David Palumbo Liu, author, Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier

Poetry by Asian American writers has had a significant impact on the landscape of contemporary American poetry, and a book-length critical treatment of Asian American poetry is long overdue. In this groundbreaking book, Xiaojing Zhou demonstrates how many Asian American poets transform the conventional “I” of lyric poetry—based on the traditional Western concept of the self and the Cartesian “I”—to enact a more ethical relationship between the “I” and its others.

Drawing on Emmanuel Levinas’s idea of the ethics of alterity—which argues that an ethical relation to the other is one that acknowledges the irreducibility of otherness—Zhou offers a reconceptualization of both self and other. Taking difference as a source of creativity and turning it into a form of resistance and a critical intervention, Asian American poets engage with broader issues than the merely poetic. They confront social injustice against the other and call critical attention to a concept of otherness which differs fundamentally from that underlying racism, sexism, and colonialism. By locating the ethical and political questions of otherness in language, discourse, aesthetics, and everyday encounters, Asian American poets help advance critical studies in race, gender, and popular culture as well as in poetry.

The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity is not limited, however, to literary studies: it is an invaluable response to the questions raised by increasingly globalized encounters across many kinds of boundaries.

The Poets

Marilyn Chin, Kimiko Hahn, Myung Mi Kim, Li Young Lee, Timothy Liu, David Mura, and John Yau