Turner, Anastasia Wright
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While numerous studies have been published detailing Modernism’s interest in Asia as well as Asian Americans’ minority subject position within American culture, few books realize the inherent interconnectedness between the two topics. This project proposes to fill this lacuna by reconsidering the legacy of American Modernist poets’ interest in and glorification of Chinese language and culture against the parallel history of Chinese immigration to and participation in the US nation state. I begin by probing the sociohistorical factors that allowed for the art object of China to become elevated while the makers of such objects were refused entry into the United States. I then discuss the varying shades and levels of appropriation, mimicry, inspiration, and translation apparent in Modernists’ poetic usages of Chineseness. Next, I trace the poetic lineage of a single Chinese character from the work of Ezra Pound through contemporary American poetry. The second section of my dissertation explores how contemporary Chinese American poets Marilyn Chin and John Yau negotiate such legacies of cultural borrowing. While Chin writes back against this history by claiming America and refusing to ignore or aestheticize China, Yau’s poems disrupt traditional poetic form in order to question the process whereby identity was determined in the first place. My project contends that paralleling these disparate works reflects the complex and conflicted influence of Chinese language, literature, and culture on American poetry.