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Hamilton Alumni Review
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Associate Professor of English Steve Yao

 

The history of Asian American poetry


The majority of Asian American literary studies focus on prose narrative. While Associate Professor of English Steve Yao acknowledges the value of these studies, he believes that by neglecting to consider the impact of poetry, the field is limited. More...

“Such a narrow purview neglects the central role that poetry historically played in the very political and cultural struggles that helped give rise to the Asian American movement in the first place,” said Yao, who is working on what will become the first book-length study dedicated specifically to poetry as a distinctive genre within the larger body of Asian American literature. Moreover, he says, not considering the impact of poetry ignores the variety of techniques employed by writers and the complex relationship among cultural and linguistic traditions that inform Asian American literary production.

With support from the American Council of Learned Societies and a fellowship from the Stanford Humanities Center, Yao is completing the monograph Foreign Accents: Chinese American Verse and the Counter-Poetics of Difference in the US, 1910-Present, which examines the various formal strategies by which different poets have sought to represent elements of particular cultural traditions.

“I want to expand the domain of Asian American poetry beyond the strict confines of English,” Yao explained. “Foreign accents will map out both a new methodology and an expanded textual arena for Asian American literary studies.” He hopes that his new methodology will be used by scholars who examine or are familiar with other traditions and have different linguistic competencies.

Yao, who joined the Hamilton faculty in 2002, began exploring the topic three years earlier while teaching at Ohio State University. The author of another book, Translation and the Languages of Modernism (Palgrave/St. Martins, 2002), he holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

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