English Language and Literature ETDs

Author

Ying Xu

Publication Date

8-28-2012

Abstract

This dissertation analyzes the works of three early Chinese immigrant writers (Yung Wing, Yan Phou Lee, and Wong Chin Foo) and two mixed race writers (Edith Eaton and Winnifred Eaton) in late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century North America in order to critique the formation of early Chinese American literature. Borrowing W. E. B. Du Boiss construct of double consciousness and Amy Ling's theory of between worlds, I argue that the complicated double consciousness exhibited in the works of these early immigrant writers demonstrates their across lands strategies of negotiating identities prior to and during the Exclusion Era (1882-1943). My formulation of what I call 'across lands theory' focuses on the self-representations of Chinese and mixed race immigrants in their struggle to acquire a place in the United States as well as other countries while simultaneously coping with anti-Chinese regulatory laws. While they negotiate their identities across geographical terrains (China and the U.S.), they also construct their self-image across other terrains such as psychological, legal, discursive, and aesthetic ones with a range of responses that cannot be limited to just resistance and assimilation. Double consciousness is the dilemma immigrant writers face, and across lands strategies demonstrate their self-fashioning and negotiation of identity during the Exclusion Era. The first chapter of this dissertation analyzes the ways in which double consciousness is utilized by Yung Wing to construct his memoir as the text of a self-made man. I argue that Yung's memoir revises the nineteenth-century cult of the self-made man to provide a prototypical model of autobiographical writing for the othered, racialized immigrant subject. The second chapter focuses on Yan Phou Lee's autobiography and periodical writing and investigates Lee's construction of difference in revising the stereotypical image of the Chinese in the late nineteenth century. I point out that the double consciousness shown in Lee's works proves that he is, like Yung Wing, another across lands figure who negotiates 'between worlds' in often sophisticated, complex, and nuanced ways. The third chapter focuses on complicated across lands strategies in Wong Chin Foo's construction of Chinese American identity in relation to 'the intelligent class of China' vis-à-vis 'heathenism.' In this chapter, I argue that Wong's periodical writing, translation, and political activities contribute to the project of constructing the new identity—Chinese American. My last chapter examines Edith and Winnifred Eaton's writings in terms of acts of passing against a paradigm of resistance and acculturation. By studying Mrs. Spring Fragrance and a Japanese Nightingale in the Eatons' works, I argue that their across lands strategy of utilizing and subversively undermining racial constructions of white American culture helps revise the abject Asian female body, including their own mixed race authorial bodies.'

Degree Name

English

Level of Degree

Doctoral

Department Name

English

First Advisor

Houston, Gail

First Committee Member (Chair)

Scharnhorst, Gary

Second Committee Member

Alemán, Jesse

Third Committee Member

Porter, Jonathan

Language

English

Keywords

American literature -- Chinese American authors -- History and criticism, Yung, Wing, 1828-1912 -- Criticism and interpretation, Sui Sin Far, 1865-1914 -- Criticism and interpretation, Eaton, Winnifred, 1879-1954 -- Criticism and interpretation, Wang, Qingfu -- Criticism and interpretation, Lee, Yan Phou, b. 1861 -- Criticism and interpretation, Chinese Americans -- Ethnic identity -- In literature

Document Type

Dissertation

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