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