Keynote Speaker 2014

Larissa Lai

Keynote Speaker
Dr. Larissa Lai, University of British Columbia

“Asian Canadian ‘Literary Elites’ and Intellectual Property: The Scandal of Appropriation in the 1990s and 2010s”

As part of a larger project on Asian Canadian literary production in the 1980s and 1990s, this talk interrogates the recent scandal around Ling Zhang’s novel Gold Mountain Blues, published in 2009 in the PRC and in 2011 in Canada. The author is currently being sued for plagiarism by three well-known Asian Canadian writers: Wayson Choy, Sky Lee and Paul Yee. Lai situates the scandal as continuous with, but also different from, the cultural appropriation debates that raged through the 1980s and 1990s, and articulates how the cultural arena has shifted to make it possible for one kind of “Asian” to appropriate from another. Lai hopes that working through the tension between universality and specificity in this debate might shed light on the debates around universality and specificity that is currently circulating in Quebec around the Charter of Values.

Bio: Dr. Larissa Lai is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at The University of British Columbia. She holds a PhD from the University of Calgary. Her first novel, When Fox Is a Thousand (Press Gang 1995, Arsenal Pulp 2004) was shortlisted for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award. Her second novel, Salt Fish Girl (Thomas Allen Publishers 2002) was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award, the Tiptree Award and the City of Calgary W. O. Mitchell Award. In 2004, West Coast Line published a special issue focussed on her work. She has been the Markin-Flanagan Writer-in-Residence at the University of Calgary (1997-8), and Writer-in-Residence in the English Department at Simon Fraser University (2006). sybil unrest, her collaborative long poem with Rita Wong, was published by Line Books in 2009. Eggs in the Basement, a long poem based on a vocabulary exhaustion exercise, surprised its writer by telling the story of Moses and Monotheism. It was published by Nomados, also in 2009, and has just been shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award. Lai’s first solo full-length poetry book, Automaton Biographies (Arsenal Pulp), was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.