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 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), 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 current book project, tentatively titled How Plot Matters: Objectivity in the Realist Novel, argues that it is not the portrayal of character but a certain kind of plot that makes the novel realist and empiricist, as it develops over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. More precisely, plot in the realist novel is shaped and distended by an objective, material, resistant world that characters have to confront, navigate, and inhabit. I show how the nature, laws, structures and causal behavior of this world were concurrently investigated by the novel and by natural philosophy in all its branches. Novelistic plots do more than present individual experience or feeling: they participate in the history of objectivity and thus intersect with the history of science.
I have published articles on subjects ranging from the diasporic novel to Georg Lukács to scale in narrative theory. 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. My courses cover topics from ghost stories around the world to Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth, London, and Asian American fiction.
Recent and Forthcoming Publications:
“Finitude, Frames, and the Plot of Frankenstein,” Frankenstein in Theory:
A Critical Anatomy (forthcoming)
“The Revolution Controversy,” Oxford Handbook on Romantic Prose (forthcoming)
“Beats Go On,” Novel: A Forum on Fiction (forthcoming)
"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. Article published February 2019. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.013.827.
"Scale and Literary History," in The 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)