Date of Award

12-1-2012

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Bogumil, Mary

Abstract

In my thesis, I argue "against the grain," asserting that the war over authenticity among first-wave and second-wave-Asian-American writers is in fact a red-herring argument. The diversity within Asian American literature--be it nationalist, multiculturalist, or globalist--is initiated by a subversive kernel borne out of Asian American writers' frustration at the manner in which Asians had, up until now, been portrayed in popular culture. This thesis will pay particular attention to how Chinese American writers, namely Frank Chin and David Henry Hwang, contest the emasculated stereotype of Asian American identity by reclaiming historical agency, demanding representational authenticity, and urging for political equality in their literature. Following a discussion of Charles Taylor's location of the originality of identity in dis/re-covery, this thesis will commence with a Freudian and Benjimanian analysis of history in Chin's Donald Duk (1991) and Hwang's Golden Child (1996). This thesis then examines the role of Chinese literature in the composition of Chinese American literature, especially in Donald Duk, Gunga Din Highway (1995), FOB (1983), and Dance and the Railroad (1983). I ascertain that the similarities/differences yielded between the "ur-myth" of Guan Gong, a general warlord who served under Liu Bei during the Three Kingdoms era, and the Asian American depictions of Guan symbolically indicate Chin and Hwang's political beliefs on how Asian American literature should be interpreted in a post-civil-rights-movement era. To continue exploring the matrix of Asian American identity in a multicultural context, I contend that post-hyphenated identity is a conscientious performance of self by drawing on Chin's The Chickencoop Chinaman (1972) and Hwang's Yellow Face (2009) as examples.

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