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Research Group Aesthetic Imaginaries

Where the Wild West Ends and China Begins: Extraterritoriality and the Transpacific Geographies of Mark Twain and Onoto Watanna

You are all cordially invited to a guest lecture by Sunny Yang from the University of Houston's English Department.

Yang's talk re-examines "Ah Sin," an 1876 California melodrama co-written by Twain and Bret Harte, in the context of U.S. discourses surrounding the mid-nineteenth-century Sino-American extraterritorial treaties. While scholars have interpreted this piece of "local" color as a response to domestic debates over Chinese immigration and legal testimony, Yang's talk foregrounds the transpacific concerns over empire that animate the play. In so doing, Yang suggests new avenues for interpreting the figure of the Chinese immigrant in nineteenth-century American fiction--avenues that also enable us to reconsider the politics of an early Asian American writer, Onoto Watanna.