American multiethnic writing from 1890-1918 : Mary Antin, Zitkala-Sa, Sutton E. Griggs, and Sui Sin Far
Crumpton, Margaret Michelle
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An unprecedented number of immigrants and people of color were being published between 1890 and 1918, but their contributions to American literature have yet to be fully explored. Until very recently, most works by these writers were overlooked in the scholarship on American Literary Realism. American Multiethnic Writing from 1890- 1918 posits that the reason they have existed on the periphery of studies in this era is that for generations scholars were unable to recognize ethnicity as one of the central themes of the age. This examination of the theme of ethnicity in the age of Realism considers the works of four writers who represent distinct responses to race relations in the United States. Mary Antin, a Jewish American who emigrated from Russia, constructs a heartfelt and unselfconscious narrative of assimilation in her autobiography The Promised Land (1912). Antin’s contemporary, Zitkala-Sa, a Dakota Sioux, expresses a marked ambivalence to Americanization in a series of stories and personal essays that appeared in major periodicals between 1900 and 1902. In five novels published between 1899 and 1908, Sutton E. Griggs depicts a revolutionary racial cohesion, advocating social and political unity among black Americans so that they may enter into American society as a whole and unified culture. Sui Sin Far, a biracial writer whose father was British and whose mother was Chinese, portrays the possibilities of a multicultural world in which individuals can occupy any number of identity positions in her short story collection Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912). This dissertation explores these works in their historical context to show how national attitudes and government policies, represented by the nativist movement, the Dawes Act, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Jim Crow, and disfranchisement, influenced these writers and helped shape their texts.
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