Charlie Chan, a fictional Chinese detective played by white men on the silver screen, captivated American audiences for decades with one-liners like “tongue often hang man quicker than rope” and is today seen as a yellowface relic. In Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History, Yunte Huang attempts to recast the maligned icon. Frank Chin, a founding father of Asian American literature, has called Charlie Chan movies “parables of racial order.” But is Charlie Chan racist or remarkable? Come decide for yourself as Huang maps Charlie Chan’s evolution from real-life Cantonese-Hawaiian legend to cinematic icon to despised postmodern symbol, and, in the process, reshapes the way we will view the controversial figure again. The New York Times calls Huang’s retelling of Charlie Chan a “very original, good-humored and passionately researched book.” Join him in conversation with LANGUAGE poet and scholar Charles Bernstein as they discuss the ways we can complicate notions of identity and performance and decide the place for yellowface.
Yunte Huang came to the U.S. in 1991 after graduating from Peking University with a B.A. in English. He received his Ph.D. from the Poetics Program at SUNY-Buffalo in 1999 and taught as an Assistant Professor of English at Harvard University from 1999-2003. He is the author of Transpacific Imaginations: History, Literature, Counterpoetics, CRIBS, Transpacific Displacement: Ethnography, Translation, and Intertextual Travel in Twentieth-Century American Literature, and Shi: A Radical Reading of Chinese Poetry, and the translator into Chinese of Ezra Pound’s The Pisan Cantos.
Charles Bernstein is the author of 40 books in a number of formats, most recently All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems, Girly Man, With Strings, and Republics of Reality: 1975-1995. He is the co-founder and co-editor of PENNsound; and editor/co-founder of The Electronic Poetry Center. With Bruce Andrews, he edited L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which was anthologized as The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book. In 2006, Bernstein was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Bernstein is Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania.
$5 suggested donation. This event is open to the public.