Critical Insights: The Joy Luck Club

Critical Insights Series

The series focuses on an individual author's entire body of work, a single work of literature, or a literary theme.

At a Glance
  • 1 Volume; 300 Pages
  • 10-14 essays offering Current Critical Analysis by Top Literary Scholars
  • Introductory Essay by the Editor
  • Chronology of Author's Life
  • Complete List of Author's Works
  • Publication Dates of Works
  • Detailed Bio of the Editor
  • General Bibliography
  • General Subject Index
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Editor: Robert C. Evans,
Auburn University Montgomery
October 2009 · 1 volume · 336 pages · 6"x9"

Includes Online Database with Print Purchase
ISBN: 978-1-58765-626-2
# of Pages: 336
# of Volumes: 1
Print List Price: $105
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e-ISBN: 978-1-58765-627-9
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In-depth critical discussions of Amy Tan's novel - Plus complimentary, unlimited online access to the full content of this great literary reference.

Edited and introduced by Robert C. Evans, Distinguished Teaching Professor and Distinguished Research Professor at Auburn University at Montgomery, this volume presents an array of scholarship on a novel that is quickly becoming a modern classic, Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club.

The volume opens with Evans' introduction in which he emphasizes the artistic excellence of Tan's text. Joanne McCarthy offers an overview of Tan's life in her brief biography after which. Karl Taro Greenfeld, writing for The Paris Review, recalls his responses to the book when it was first published and then many years later.

The Critical Contexts section of this volume presents four original survey essays that provide the reader with a useful framework for studying Tan's novel. Camille-Yvette Welsch begins by surveying the critical reception of Tan's works, particularly Joy Luck. Evans returns to place the book in an appropriate cultural and historical context-looking specifically at the four decades following World War II. Doris L. Eder considers some of the mechanics of Tan's novel, including structure, narration, style, and themes; after which Neil Heims compares and contrasts Tan's book with Michael Cunningham's The Hours.

Presenting a number of previously published essays, the Critical Views section of this book begins with Barbara Somogyi and David Stanton's classic interview with Tan. Next, Ben Xu examines the notion of the ethnic self as it is presented in The Joy Luck Club while Stephen Souris suggests that Tan's book "invites analysis from critical perspectives that theorize and valorize fragmented, discontinuous texts and the possibilities of connections across segments." Esther Mikyung Ghymn finds fault with many of the characters for being stereotypical, and insufficiently individualized. Following Ghymn's essay, M. Marie Booth Foster compares The Joy Luck Club to Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife. Patricia L. Hamilton explains many of the traditional Chinese beliefs mentioned in Joy Luck, while Patricia P. Chu argues that a "utopian view of American immigration is the foundation of Tan's text." Catherine Romagnolo provides a feminist perspective in her examination of the narrative beginnings in The Joy Luck Club. Closing the volume, Robert C. Evans returns with a new, unpublished interview with Amy Tan conducted on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the publication of The Joy Luck Club.

Each essay is 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes. Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources:

A chronology of the author's life
A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
A general bibliography
A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
Notes on the individual chapter authors
A subject index


From "About This Volume"
This collection of essays on Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is only the latest of many indications that the book has now achieved the status of a modern (or perhaps “postmodern”) classic—a text that is widely read, widely taught, highly valued, and much discussed. Instantly and unusually successful when it was first published twenty years ago, Tan’s volume (which she prefers to think of as a collection of stories rather than as a novel per se) has stayed continuously in print ever since and remains perhaps her most widely esteemed work. The purpose of this volume is to help illuminate Tan’s book from a variety of sometimes contrasting, sometimes complementary perspectives.

The volume opens with a brief essay in which I emphasize the artistic excellence of Tan’s text—an approach that has not received as much stress in recent criticism as it might have. Joanne McCarthy next offers a helpful overview of Tan’s life. Then, Karl Taro Greenfeld, a writer for The Paris Review, recalls his personal responses to the book when it was first published and then later, after a lapse of many years. In the “Critical Contexts” section (which comprises essays entirely new to this volume), Camille-Yvette Welsch begins by surveying the critical reception of Tan’sworks, particularly The Joy Luck Club. I then provide a sense of the cultural and historical contexts of the book, especially developments in the four decades following World War II (when Tan and many of her readers were growing up) as well as events and trends in the late 1980s (when her work was first being written and read). Doris L. Eder then discusses the book from numerous points of view, including structure, narration, style, genesis, (auto)biographical background, fabulous and fantastic elements, themes and variations, and Tan’s uses of repetitions, parallels, dualities, and doublings. Finally, to conclude this section, Neil Heims compares and contrasts Tan’s book with Michael Cunningham’s The Hours.

The “Critical Readings” section (which reprints previously published work, arranged in chronological order) opens with a fascinating and insightful interview (conducted by Barbara Somogyi and David Stanton) with Tan herself. Next, Ben Xu uses The Joy Luck Club to argue that “the ethnic self, just like the existential self, is neither free nor self-sufficient, and therefore never an authentic or genuine self.” Stephen Souris suggests that Tan’s book “invites analysis from critical perspectives that theorize and valorize fragmented, discontinuous texts and the possibilities of connection across segments.” Esther Mikyung Ghymn contends that “we cannot really believe the stories that the mothers tell about themselves in The Joy Luck Club.” Ghymn faults many of the characters for being stereotypical, unrealistic, and insufficiently individualized.

In an essay comparing The Joy Luck Club to Tan’s next book (The Kitchen God’s Wife), M. Marie Booth Foster asserts that “the quest for voice becomes an archetypal journey for all of the women” in both texts. Patricia L. Hamilton offers a great deal of helpful information about many of the traditional Chinese beliefs mentioned in The Joy Luck Club, and Patricia P. Chu argues that a “utopian view of American immigration is the foundation of Tan’s text.” In this volume’s penultimate essay, Catherine Romagnolo uses deconstructive methods to examine the structure of the book, in the process arguing that the work is more politically sophisticated than some critics have alleged. The volume closes with my recent interview of Tan, conducted on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the publication of The Joy Luck Club. The Joy Luck Club, like any significant creative work, inevitably defeats any single or partial attempt to comprehend it, but such defeats have (ideally) the salutary effect of sending us back to the original text in search of new insights, deeper understanding, and fuller appreciation. If the present volume inspires thoughtful rereadings of Tan’s book, it will have accomplished one of its most important goals.