Professor Paul Lai  English Department

Paul Lai comes to St. Thomas as a specialist in Asian American literature. Growing up in the suburbs of San Francisco, he read constantly. He was the boy with his nose in a book, absent-mindedly trailing his mother at the grocery store and sometimes some other shopper whose pants looked like his mother’s. He read detective stories, magical tales, horror novels, fantasy series, popular fiction books, and high-brow classics alike, but it wasn't until graduate school that he discovered the wealth of literature written by Asian Americans. He offers courses introducing students to this literature as ways of knowing America differently. He sees Asian American literature as a tool for students to encounter familiar topics -- ranging from coming-of-age narratives to American history -- in novel ways.

Despite his strong allegiances to the book as a repository of ideas, Lai currently focuses on the aural nature of language and culture -- both how words sound and how other noises create cultural meanings. He argues that this focus on listening is especially important for Asian American literary studies because a central mode of marking Asians as a distinct racial group in the United States has been through accented English. He listens to novels and poetry for the sounds and experiences they encode and perform. He listens to music and stand-up comedy as other cultural sites that articulate sounds to Asian American identities. Lai also has interests in comparative ethnic studies, transnational feminisms, literary theory, and cultural studies.



Contact Info

Office, JRC 322

(651) 962-5608

Office Hours

Spring 2011

MWF 9:30-10:30

and by appointment


English, JRC 333

Univ of St. Thomas

2115 Summit Ave.

St. Paul, MN 55105