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Across Lands: Double Consciousness and Negotiating Identities in Early Chinese American Literature, 1847-1910s


Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/21094

Across Lands: Double Consciousness and Negotiating Identities in Early Chinese American Literature, 1847-1910s

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Title: Across Lands: Double Consciousness and Negotiating Identities in Early Chinese American Literature, 1847-1910s
Author: Xu, Ying
Advisor(s): Houston, Gail
Committee Member(s): Scharnhorst, Gary
Alemán, Jesse
Porter, Jonathan
Department: University of New Mexico. Dept. of English
Subject: Across Lands, Double Consciousness, Between Worlds, Asian American Literature, Chinese American literature, exclusionist discourse, heathenism, Chinese American, passing, abjection, Yung Wing, Yan Phou Lee, Wong Chin Foo, Edith Eaton, Sui Sin Far, Winnifred Eaton, Onoto Watanna, Ah Sin, the "Heathen Chinee," Construction of difference, missionary discourse of making the new Orient
identity formation
LC Subject(s): 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
Degree Level: Doctoral
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 Bois’s 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.
Graduation Date: July 2012
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/21094
Item Available: 2014-08-31

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