Date of Award

5-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Mary E. Papke

Committee Members

Dr. Tom Haddox, Dr. CHarles Maland, Dr. Carolyn Hodges

Abstract

Searching for America: The Development of the Immigrant Narrative across Jewish, African, Cuban, and Korean American Literature is a longitudinal study that traces and accounts for the development of immigrant literature within specific ethnic groups, focusing on how different generations rewrite the immigrant narrative of their own cultures. Considering multiple texts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by Jewish, African, Cuban, and Korean American authors, I examine the changing relationship between language or literary form and identity politics for each group. In addition to exploring individual patterns of development, I suggest ways in which these very different ethnic texts speak to each other and to the myths and realities that constitute America. What emerges from this comparative study of group patterns is a picture of ethnicity in this country through the eyes of the immigrant writer, who is positioned as both insider and outsider of American culture. In showing how and why that picture has changed over the past century, I argue for the centrality of immigrant literature to the American literary canon.

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