Date of Award
College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, English and Literary Arts
Creative writing, Poetry
The creative component of this dissertation is a collection of poems that reflect my interest with performance and performativity in terms of identity, race, gender, bodies, and language. I expand upon my Madame Butterfly series, a sequence of persona poems written from the point-of-view of the titular character and supporting characters in Puccini’s opera. The poems play on the opera’s use of language and dialogue in order to interrogate the opera’s Orientalist gaze. The collection also features a contemporary epic titled “Moly” that riffs off the structure and imagery of Homer’s Odyssey. “Moly” engages with and subverts traditions of Western poetics and cultural ideas about heroic identity, violence, grief, forgiveness, love, family, and resolution. In this poetry collection, I transform my ideas and concerns across different forms of mythmaking in Western poetics and oral storytelling—whether that is based in the form of an epic or an opera.
The critical apparatus first presents an analysis of texts like Mao’s Oculus, Victoria Chang’s Barbie Chang, and Henry Hwang’s M. Butterflyin order to examine the ways that Asian American writers speak to and engage the audience in a conversation about power and how we come to see or understand one another. I argue that the desire to spectate upon an Oriental narrative, and how such desires sustain themselves in our culture and society today, is due to relations of power between the spectator and the spectated upon. Then, I go on to examine contemporary English-language epics that work within the tradition of the epic in terms of character, narrative, scale and scope. I argue that contemporary English-language epics expand our ideas of the ever-evolving and encompassing genre of the epic by grappling with ideas of performance and song within our current print-based culture. The critical apparatus thus investigates the ways that contemporary writers contend with the Orientalist gaze and Western traditions of storytelling in their work in ways that expand boundaries or defy dynamics of power.
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Received from author
Chen, Wendy, "Understudy" (2023). Restricted Access ETDs. 100.