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.
I work across several fields: British Romanticism, Asian American literature, novel theory and literary theory. My first book, Nationalism and Irony (Oxford UP, 2004), looks at how these two forces formed a strange alliance in Britain in the eventful 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), examines 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 certain 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 situated in this context.
My current book project looks at the role played by plot in the British realist novel as it develops over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Rather than thinking of plot as a shape or form, I look at it as an objective, resistant world through which actions have to occur. While histories of the novel have largely focused on individual experience and subjectivity, I argue that plots are significant because they have to set forth accounts of how things happen. They cannot ignore questions of causation, of the production of fact, even of laws of motion. Thus, I examine the intersection of the novel with early modern experimental philosophy, which also sought to establish the parameters of explanation for how and why things move as they do.
I have published articles on subjects ranging from the diasporic novel to Georg Lukács to scale in narrative theory. The latter is a particular interest. I also continue to work in Asian American literature. My teaching ranges from eighteenth-century British novels to literary and narrative theory to Asian American studies. It includes courses on Austen and Maria Edgeworth, London Then and Now, Novels of the Open Road, Asian American Fiction, and The Asian American Experience.
"Vection, Vertigo, and the Historical Novel," forthcoming in
Novel: A Forum on Fiction
"Narratology and Asian American Literature," forthcoming in the
Oxford Encyclopedia of Asian American Literature and Culture
"Questions of Scale: Narrative Theory and Literary History,"
Cambridge Companion to Narrative Theory, ed. Matthew Garrett, (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2018), 29-45.
"Racialized Bodies and Asian American Literature," American
Literary History, 30, 1 (2017): 166-76
"Bad Plots and Objectivity in Maria Edgeworth," Representations
139 (Summer 2017): 35-49.
"The Postcolonial Novel and the Diasporic Imaginary,"
in The Cambridge Companion to the Postcolonial Novel,
ed. Ato Quayson (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2016), 133-51,
reprinted in The Diaspora Studies Reader, ed. Klaus
Stierstorfer and Janet Wilson (Routledge, 2016)