The Lack of Multiculturalism in the American Literary Canon

Professor Myles Chilton, The Asian Conference on Arts & Humanities 2015 (ACAH2015) Conference Co-Chair, interviews Keynote Speaker, Dr A. Robert Lee.

This interview is a follow-up to Dr A. Robert Lee's presentation on multicultural writing in America. The conversation starts with a discussion on the concept of power in writing and how power is manifested through the written word. Dr A. Robert Lee then explains how the American literary canon developed to become largely devoid of ethnic and multicultural representation. They also discuss their ideas on how to reimagine and describe American literature with a focus on multiculturalism and ethnic authors. The interview finishes with a short conversation on globalization and the impact it is having on language and culture.


Professor A. Robert Lee

A. Robert Lee, a Britisher who helped establish American Studies in the UK, was Professor in the English department at Nihon University, Tokyo from 1997 to 2011, having previously taught for almost three decades at the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK. He now lives in Murcia, Spain. He has held visiting professorial positions in the US at the University of Virginia, Bryn Mawr College, Northwestern University, the University of Colorado, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of New Mexico.

His academic books include Designs of Blackness: Mappings in the Literature and Culture of Afro-America (1998); Postindian Conversations (1999), with Gerald Vizenor; Multicultural American Literature: Comparative Black, Native, Latino/a and Asian American Fictions (2003), which won the American Book Award in 2004; Gothic to Multicultural: Idioms of Imagining in American Literary Fiction (2009) and Modern American Counter Writing: Beats, Outriders, Ethnics (2010). Has also been responsible for collections like Other Britain, Other British (1995); Beat Generation Writers (1996); China Fictions/English Language: Literary Essays in Diaspora, Memory, Story (2008); The Salt Companion to Jim Barnes (2010); with Deborah L. Madsen, Gerald Vizenor: Texts and Contexts (2010); Native American Writing, 4 Vols (2011), African American Writing, 5 Vols (2013), US Latino/a Writing (2014); and, with Alan R. Velie, The Native American Renaissance: Literary Imagination and Achievement (2013).

His creative work is reflected in Japan Textures: Sight and Word (2007), with Mark Gresham; Tokyo Commute: Japanese Customs and Way of Life Viewed from the Odakyu Line (2011); and the poetry collections Ars Geographica: Maps and Compasses (2012); Portrait and Landscape: Further Geographies (2013); Imaginarium: Sightings, Galleries, Sightlines (2013); Americas: Selected Verse and Vignette (2015); Password: A Book of Locks and Keys (2016); and Aurora: A Spanish Gallery of Image and Text (IAFOR Publications on-line, 2016).

Professor Lee is a renowned author and scholar on issues of ethnicity, race and identity in the United States and was a Keynote Speaker at The Asian Conference on Arts & Humanities 2015 (ACAH2015).

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Born and raised in Brighton, England, Thaddeus Pope is an experienced commercial and editorial photographer with a BA in Photography from the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Thaddeus’s duties at IAFOR include overseeing the design, media and marketing output of the organisation, as well as producing photo-essays, short documentaries and other visual content for IAFOR and its publications, including THINK. In January 2015, Thaddeus was named as the Creative Director of the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award. tpope@iafor.org (in English)