A.B., Harvard College; Ph.D., Yale University
Yoon Sun LeeProfessor of English
My research and teaching span two areas, British eighteenth and nineteenth century prose fiction, and Asian American literature.
My work spans several fields: British Romanticism, Asian American literature, novel theory and literary theory. My first book, Nationalism and Irony (Oxford UP, 2004), looked at how the two forces named in the title formed a strange alliance in Britain in the period from 1790 to 1843. In the realms of political rhetoric, antiquarian activity, novel-writing, and cultural criticism, Edmund Burke, Sir Walter Scott, and Thomas Carlyle managed to highlight rather than conceal social divisions, even as they claimed to be defending the established order. My second book, Modern Minority: Asian American Literature and Everyday Life (Oxford UP, 2013), examined the everyday as an aspect of modernity with an unexpected resonance and significance for Asian American literature. Through this literature as well as in theories of the everyday, a special type of form emerges: minor, abstract, small-scale, and repetitive. These features come to characterize not only the modern, Western everyday, but the racial form of Asians themselves once they become situated in this context.
My forthcoming book project, Natural Laws of Plot: Objectivity in the Novel, aims to develop new ways of thinking about plot by connecting the history of the realist novel to the history of natural philosophy in the eighteenth century. Instead of dismissing the novel’s claim to refer to a world, I look at the epistemological codes, structures, models, and practices that the plots of novels build upon. Plot in the realist novel is given shape by the characteristics and behaviors of the physical world. By turning general experience into specific experiments, and experiments into laws, early modern natural philosophy laid out a coherent world that novels then incorporated into the work that their plots engage in. Novels’ plots do more than present individual experience: they participate in the history of objectivity and thus intersect with the history of science.
I have published articles on other subjects including the diasporic novel, narrative theory, and Georg Lukács. I’m currently working on a project on Cold War structuralism in the late 1960s and the intersection of theory with the Asian American movement. I also continue to investigate the formation of race and development of taxonomy in the Romantic era, in novels in particular. My teaching ranges from eighteenth-century British novels to literary and narrative theory to Asian American studies. My courses cover topics from ghost stories and decolonization to Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth, London Then and Now, and Asian American fiction.
Recent and Forthcoming Publications:
Natural Laws of Plot: Objectivity in the Novel (University of
Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming)
“Jane Austen, Whiteness, and the Phenomenology of Comfort,” Keats-
Shelley Journal (forthcoming)
“Sovereignty and the Shadows of Indigeneity: Stevenson’s Remediation
of Scott in The Master of Ballantrae,” Scotland and the Pacific (Brill,
“Finitude, Frames, and the Plot of Frankenstein,” Frankenstein in Theory:
A Critical Anatomy (2021)
“The Revolution Controversy,” Oxford Handbook on Romantic Prose
"Austen's Swarms and Plots," European Romantic Review 30, 3 (2019): 307-314
"Vection, Vertigo, and the Historical Novel," Novel: A Forum on Fiction
52, 2 (Summer 2019): 179-199
"Narrative Theory and Asian American Literature," Oxford Research Encyclopedia of
Literature (24 pp.) Oxford University Press. (February 2019) doi:
"Scale and Literary History," in The Cambridge Companion to Narrative Theory, ed.
Matthew Garrett (2018)