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American Narratives

Multiethnic Writing in the Age of Realism

Margaret Crumpton Winter

Publication Year: 2007

American Narratives takes readers back to the turn of the twentieth century to reintroduce four writers of varying ethnic backgrounds whose works were mostly ignored by critics of their day. With the skill of a literary detective, Molly Crumpton Winter recovers an early multicultural discourse on assimilation and national belonging that has been largely overlooked by literary scholars. At the heart of the book are close readings of works by four nearly forgotten artists from 1890 to 1915, the era often termed the age of realism: Mary Antin, a Jewish American immigrant from Russia; Zitkala-Ša, a Sioux woman originally from South Dakota; Sutton E. Griggs, an African American from the South; and Sui Sin Far, a biracial, Chinese American female writer who lived on the West Coast. Winter's treatment of Antin's The Promised Land serves as an occasion for a reexamination of the concept of assimilation in American literature, and the chapter on Zitkala-Ša is the most comprehensive analysis of her narratives to date. Winter argues persuasively that Griggs should have long been a more visible presence in American literary history, and the exploration of Sui Sin Far reveals her to be the embodiment of the varied and unpredictable ways that diversity of cultures came together in America. In American Narratives, Winter maintains that the writings of these four rediscovered authors, with their emphasis on issues of ethnicity, identity, and nationality, fit squarely in the American realist tradition. She also establishes a multiethnic dialogue among these writers, demonstrating ways in which cultural identity and national belonging are peristently contested in this literature.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

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pp. ix

This book would not have been possible without those scholars whose recovery work and critical consideration of ethnic American realist writers form the foundation of this study. Among them is the incomparable James...

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1. Diversity in the Age of Realism

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pp. 1-29

Between 1890 and 1915, an unprecedented number of works by immigrants, African Americans, and American Indians were being published in the United States, but their contributions to American literature are only beginning to be fully...

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2. Mary Antin and Assimilation

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pp. 30-54

Since the publication of her autobiography The Promised Land in 1912, Mary Antin has been both commended and disparaged for her adamant belief in Americanization. However, her book contains a much more complex depiction...

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3. Ambiguity and Affiliation: The Stories and Essays of Zitkala-Ša

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pp. 55-88

In the writings of Zitkala-Ša, a rejection of American identity coexists with a sense that a traditional tribal identity is no longer viable once the process of assimilation begins. What emerges is a profound ambivalence: the record...

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4. Race and Nation in the Novels of Sutton E. Griggs

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pp. 89-117

In the post-Reconstruction era, many African American writers were calling for social justice in the face of widespread disfranchisement, increased lynchings, and the creation of segregation laws throughout the South...

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5. The Multicultural Perspective of Sui Sin Far

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pp. 118-150

Sui Sin Far’s short stories are significant contributions to American literature because of their early insights into the possibilities of diversity. Through the cross-cultural scenarios that she creates in her fiction, Sui Sin Far is able to explore...

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6. Conclusion: American Narratives

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pp. 151-164

Ethnic American writers in the age of realism gave a more balanced picture of their respective cultures than the racist, stereotypical, or romantic depictions of immigrants and people of color found in popular literature and the press...

Appendix: Selected List of Realist Texts That Address Ethnicity

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pp. 165-169


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pp. 171-187

Works Cited

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pp. 189-197


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pp. 199-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780807135785
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807132258

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2007