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ENGL 204 A: Popular Fiction and Media

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 1:20pm
MEB 238
Shawn Wong
Shawn Wong

Syllabus Description:

Shawn Wong

Professor, Department of English

Byron and Alice Lockwood Professor in the Humanities


Personal website:,

Faculty webpage: 

Office Hours:  by appointment or via Zoom only (regular office hours suspended because Padelford Hall has no heat)

Office: B423 Padelford Hall (4th floor, middle of the building)

Office Phone:  (206) 616-0941

Classroom COVID Policies:

  • Wear a face mask at all times, covering your nose and mouth.
  • There is no eating or drinking during class.  If you wish to remove your mask for any reason, please do so outside of the classroom.
  • All other UW COVID protocols must be followed in the classroom:

COVID protocols:

We will follow all UW protocols in the event anyone in this class comes into contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19:

The UW also recommends that students be seated with the same small group of students in class so that we can quickly determine who was in proximity to someone who tests positive.  In our case, we will be seated with our discussion group members, which we would be doing anyway.

Policy on Non-verbalization of Racial Slurs and Warning on Racist Content in Film

This course is committed to establishing and providing a safe classroom environment for all students.  To that end, we acknowledge that there are complex pedagogical challenges in presenting course materials that may contain racial slurs in texts and/or in various forms of media that may offend students, particularly BIPOC students.  We (instructor and students) affirm a policy of the non-verbalization of racial slurs by, recognizing that the verbalization of racial slurs may have a triggering effect on students when not heard in their own voice or read silently to themselves from their course materials. 

With respect to films and other media presented in class, the instructor will review and consider screening content with racial slurs based on four requirements:  (1) articulating the specific relevance to the course topic/module, (2) providing a warning about content before screening the clips, (3) stating that students may opt out of being physically in attendance if a specific film or other course content might cause pain, harm, or alienation, and (4) including a broad warning in the syllabus about course content and materials. 

Policy on Religious Accommodation:  

“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”

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Course Description:  Asian American Representation in the Real and the Fake in Popular Media

Asian American writers and their work are having their moment right now and we're going to be reading two of the latest works:  Interior Chinatown: A Novel by Charles Yu, winner of the National Book Award, and The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir by E.J. Koh, winner of the American Book Award and Washington State Book Award.  We will also be viewing films that will inform our reading of Interior Chinatown, from the fake Asian film stereotypes of the past to the real images that serve to counteract those earlier images of "yellow face."

This class is structured around the idea and goal of cooperative learning rather than competitive learning, therefore there's more emphasis on collaborative group work.  In order for your group to succeed in this class, it is necessary that each student participate fully in their discussion groups.

Required Reading:

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh

Required Viewing:

"Slaying the Dragon: Special Edition" (this documentary contains racial stereotypes and racial slurs of Asians):

"Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded" (this documentary contains Asian stereotypes and racial slurs):

"Chan is Missing" directed by Wayne Wang:

"In the Mood for Love" directed by Wong Kar-wai:

Plus one film to be chosen by your group.

Required Museum Visit [Virtual and/or in-person]:

Book an in-person visit to the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and/or a virtual visit to the Freeman Hotel and Yick Fung Chinese Import Store in Seattle's International District (virtual tours available on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays):

Grading Policy:

There are two kinds of assignments for this course, individual written assignments and group presentations and group written assignments.  In group presentations and assignments, each student in the group is expected to fully participate.  It is up to the group to decide the division of the workload for each student.  For example, if one student prefers not to do the oral presentation, they can be assigned as the group's notetaker or the group can ask that the workload be shared.  Non-participation can result in one or more students receiving a lower grade than the other students in a group.  Teamwork is an important part of this course and a return to in-person teaching.

There are two exams in the course, one is a group exam where each group takes the exam as a group in class and turns in one exam on Canvas.  If, for some reason, you cannot attend that exam session in-person, you should make arrangements for participating via Zoom or Google Docs or other virtual solutions.  The second exam is an online Canvas exam and will be taken individually on the last day of classroom teaching during class meeting time.  Both exams will be timed exams.

Written assignments should be proofread carefully before turning them in.  For example, do not ignore software alerts for misspelled words, missing punctuation, etc.  This is an English class, therefore writing accuracy is important and formal presentation of your work is essential.  Written assignments that are deemed unacceptable will be returned for revision.

Group Presentations:

Each discussion group will lead one discussion in class, using power point, and take discussion notes for the class session.  Your group should present at least six discussion questions, lead discussion, and take notes on the discussion during your presentation and afterwards.  The discussion questions and notes should be uploaded to Canvas Discussions under your group heading.  Exams are based solely on group discussion notes.

Discussion questions should indicate what it is you're trying to understand in your reading and what it is you're seeking help from others in the class in discussing the issues.  Questions can be centered on the what you feel is the most important point the author addresses in that section of the reading or scene in a film.  In other words, try to think of questions that really seek answers rather than confirm what it is you already know.

Discussion Groups:

Group One:

Kyle Guevarra, Anastasia Kim, Ben Knaupe, Salena Tran

Group Two:

Harjason Lalli, Allison Remington, Yaneisy Rodriguez, Quephin Troung

Group Three:

Ken Flores, Zion Jo, Claire Johnston, Kendra Nguyen

Group Four:

Alexander Hughes, Ally Lang, Kendy Lin, Andrew Uyeta

Group Five:

Hannah Horiuchi, Noah Larson, Sabastian Stanton, Annie Wen

Group Six:

Vidhi Agrawal, Haley Hummelt, Jason Tomberlin, Minh Vernon

Group Seven:

Megan Cheung, Lainey Merrill, Nathalie O'Parka, Sungmin Woo, Ansel Ye

Group Eight:

Katherine Armer, Dalia Lopez-Barraza, Leo Minichillo, Fatou Sanneh, Maggie Sarkisova

Group Nine:

Mingkai Chen, Jackson Keener, Suraj Gangaram, Mark Redman, Zhuolin Zheng

Group Ten:

Brooklyn Bonnett, Hailey Conklin, Vineet Kalki, Maxwell Nares


Course Schedule:

09/29:  Introductions, syllabus review, course content, group assignments

Part 1.  The Fake

In this section of the course we will survey the history of the Asian stereotype in popular media from the 19th century to the present, covering political cartoons, and movie images.  We will also examine how these negative images led to the passage of various immigration and exclusionary laws from the 19th century through the mid-20th century.

The main text for this section will be Interior Chinatown plus films available through UW Library streaming.

10/4:  Brief history of Asian and Asian American media stereotypes:  print media, survey of Chinese American history, immigration, exclusion laws

Report of current anti-Asian violence:

10/6:  Brief history of Asian and Asian American media stereotypes: television & movies

Article on Asian American male roles in film:

10/08:  First Assignment due (see Canvas Assignments).

10/11:  Discussion Group 1:  "Slaying the Dragon: Special Edition" & "Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded"   

10/13:  Chinatown: Reality, Fantasy, and State of Mind

  • San Francisco's Chinatown:  The city that provides the foundation for Interior Chinatown.
  • Freeman Hotel at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

10/18: Discussion Group 2:  Interior Chinatown: Act I & Act II 

10/20: Discussion Group 3: Interior Chinatown, Act III & Act IV

10/25:  Discussion Group 4: Interior Chinatown, Act V & Act VI

10/27:  Discussion Group 5: Interior Chinatown, Act VII & Review

11/1:  Exam #1 on course content to 10/27 (this is a group exam, which means each discussion group will take the exam as a group in class and turn in one exam)

11/3:  Discussion Group 6: "Chan is Missing"            

11/8:    Discussion Group 7: "In the Mood for Love"

Part 2.  The Real

In this section of the course, we will examine the rise of Asian American independent films, the rediscovery of Asian American literature, and current trends, including recent anti-Asian violence due to the pandemic.

The main text for this section will be the memoir The Magical Language of Others and a series of articles available online (links will be provided in the course schedule).

11/10:  Discussion Group 8:  The Magical Language of Others, Chapters 1-6

11/15:  Discussion Group 9: The Magical Language of Others, Chapters 7-13

11/17:  Discussion Group 10: The Magical Language of Others, Chapters 14-20

11/22:  Review of The Magical Language of Others 

11/24:  No class today (instead watch one of the films listed in the 20 best Asian American films below)

Film Review Presentations and Critiques:

Upload these film review power point presentations to Canvas Assignments.  These films have been reviewed in many places.  Please don't copy and paste, instead write your review based on and informed by our discussion in class during the quarter.  For example, your group can draw on class discussion in order to place your film review in context to a previous class discussion.

Here's an example of a film review of "Americanese" by critic Roger Ebert:


Your group should pick a film from one of the twenty mentioned in this Los Angeles Times article, "The 20 Best Asian American Films of the Last 20 Years" (not all may be available for streaming).  Some are in the Media Center collection in Suzzallo Library:

Reviews are all due on December 13th by midnight.

Dates of class presentations:

11/29:  Quick Asian American film reviews, Groups 1, 2, 3  (films TBD)

12/1:  Quick Asian American film reviews, Groups 4, 5, 6 (films TBD)

12/6: Quick Asian American film reviews, Groups 7, 8, 9, 10 (films TBD)

12/8: Last Day of Class & Exam #2 (online during class hours)

Catalog Description: 
Introduces students to the study of popular culture, possibly including print or visual media, understood as sites of critical reflection. Particular attention to dynamics of production and reception, aesthetics and technique, and cultural politics. Topics may foreground genres (science fiction; romance) or forms (comics; graffiti). Offered: S.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2021 - 11:52am