Julia H Lee

picture of Julia H Lee

Associate Professor, Asian American Studies
School of Humanities

Ph.D., UCLA, 2005, English
B.A., Amherst College, 1995, English

Email: juliahl1@uci.edu

University of California, Irvine
3305 Humanities Gateway
Mail Code: 6900
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Asian American literature and culture, Ethnic American literature and culture, early twentieth-century African American literature, American railroad, Transcontinental Railroad, Chinese exclusion, Angel Island poems, Maxine Hong Kingston
Academic Distinctions
The George and Arlene Cheng Fellow and the Mayers Fellow (both short-term) at the Huntington Library, 2018-2019
The University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Irvine, 2005-2007
Research Abstract
My book-in-progress, “The Racial Railroad” makes the case that the train is one of the exemplary contact zones through which American literary and cultural texts explore questions of racial subjectivity, community, and conflict. The railroad has played – and continues to play – a crucial role in the formation and perception of racial identity and difference in the United States. This is not to say that all or even most writers who represent racial difference set their works on the railroad, and indeed, there are many places that Americans have come to associate with racial interactions over the past hundred years (e.g., ethnic urban enclaves, the back of a bus, the Mall in Washington D.C., a raft on the Mississippi River). The railroad car, however, is distinct from these other locations in that it is multi-layered and multi-scalar, operating across many registers of meaning both as an invocation of and a depository for all kinds of social, historical, and political narratives great and small. The texts that I will analyze in “The Racial Railroad” range widely in terms of media, genre, time period, and racial politics. They include Currier and Ives’ painting “Across the Continent” (1868), María Ruiz de Burton’s The Squatter and the Don (1885), Willa Cather’s “Chinese” short stories (c. 1900), James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man (1912), advertisements for leisure travel on the Northern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads, John Ford’s silent epic film The Iron Horse (1924), Ralph Ellison’s “Boy on a Train” (composed c. 1937, published in 1996), Flannery O’Connor’s “The Artificial Nigger” (1955), Leslie Marmon Silko’s Gardens in the Dune (1999), Frank Chin’s works, Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men (1980), Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer (2013), Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger (2013), and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016). By putting a variety of texts in conversation with other, “The Racial Railroad” demonstrates how and why the train is a particularly important topos in narratives of racial (dis)identification across racial and ethnic lines. Drawing from such a vast literary and cultural archive also enables me to craft an alternative narrative through which to organize American literary history, one that takes into consideration a synchronic conception of literary formation as well as the more traditional, diachronic one.
“Island In Between: The Politics of Place in the Poetry of Angel Island,” Asian American Literature in Transition, Vol. 1 (1850-1930), edited by Josephine Lee and Julia H. Lee (forthcoming 2020).
“Transpacific Diasporas: Migration and Metafiction in 21st Century Asian American Literature,” The Cambridge Companion to 21st Century American Fiction, edited by Joshua Miller, Oxford University Press (forthcoming).
Co-editor with Professor Josephine Lee of Asian American Literature in Transition, Vol. 1 (1850-1930), Cambridge University Press (forthcoming 2020).
"Asian American Realisms," The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Realism, edited by Keith Newlin, Oxford University Press, 2019, pp. 223-231.
“Comparative African American and Asian American Literary Studies,” The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian American Literature and Culture, edited by Josephine Lee, Anita Mannur, and Cathy Schlund-Vials, 2019. Available at http://oxfordre.com/literature/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.001.0001/acrefore-9780190201098-e-836
Understanding Maxine Hong Kingston. University of South Carolina Press, 2018.
“Model Maternity: Amy Chua and Asian American Motherhood.” Global Asian American Popular Cultures. Shilpa Davé, LeiLani Nishime, and Tasha Oren, ed. New York: New York University Press, 2016. 61-73.
“The Railroad as Message in Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men and Frank Chin’s ‘Riding the Rails with Chickencoop Slim.’” The Journal of Asian American Studies 18.3 (2015): 265-287.
“The Chinaman’s Crime: Race, Memory, and the Railroad in Willa Cather’s ‘The Affair at Grover Station.’” Western American Literature 49.2 (2014): 147-170.
“Rethinking Asian American Literary Studies: A Review Essay of Jodi Kim’s Ends of Empire: Asian American Critique and the Cold War, Caroline Rody’s The Interethnic Imagination: Roots and Passages in Contemporary American Fiction, and Eleanor Ty’s Unfastened: Globality and Asian North American Narratives.” MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 59.1 (Spring 2013): 182-192.
Interracial Encounters: Reciprocal Representations in African and Asian American Literatures, 1896-1937. New York: New York University Press, October 2011.
“Estrangement on a Train: Race and Narratives of American Identity,” ELH 75.2 (2008): 345-365.
“The Capitalist and Imperialist Critique in H. T. Tsiang’s And China Has Hands.” Recovered Legacies: Authority and Identity in Early Asian American Literature. Ed. Floyd Cheung and Keith Lawrence. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2005. 80-97.
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