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What do we have in canon? : Chinese Canadian anthologies and the posit(ion)ing of an ethno-national literary canon and its contexts Lew, Janey

Abstract

Chinese Canadian anthologies are sites for negotiating community boundaries, positing coalitions, deconstructing social and literary institutions, and asserting legitimacy. They pose the question, What do we have in canon?, by interrogating the representation of Chinese Canadian writers in the existing canon and by offering an alternative canon for consideration. I propose the term "ethno-national literature" to account for the ethno-racial and national distinctiveness of the literary category "Chinese Canadian." While recent scholarly work has been directed toward conceptualizing "Asian Canadian" and "Asian North American" as disciplinary areas of study within English, it does not address the issue that specific ethno-racial groups continue to identify themselves in categories such as "Chinese Canadian" or "Japanese Canadian." This thesis considers the theoretical potential of Chinese Canadian anthologies as texts which articulate rhetorical community. I examine five anthologies of Chinese Canadian literature, Inalienable Rice (a collaboration between Chinese and Japanese Canadian artist-activists, 1979), Many-Mouthed Birds (1991), Jin Guo (1992), Swallowing Clouds (1999) and Strike the Wok (2003), in comparison with three Oxford anthologies of Canadian literature to consider how Chinese Canadian anthologies act as culturally-resistant, canon-forming texts.

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