Reimagining the nation: gender and nationalism in contemporary U.S. women's literature
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This dissertation discusses contemporary U.S. women’s literature in the context of women’s struggles with nation and nationalism, examining how Leslie Marmon Silko, Gloria Naylor, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Nora Okja Keller contest articulations of gender, ethnicity, and cultural affiliations in terms of the dynamics of national inclusion and exclusion. Silko’s Ceremony (1977), Naylor’s Linden Hills (1985), Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1976), and Keller’s Comfort Woman (1997) were written at the crossroads between contemporary feminisms and nationalisms and reveal women’s centrality to national projects. Approaching these four literary texts not only as cultural narrations of nation but also as critical engagements between feminism and nationalism, this dissertation argues that postnational and/or transnational politics are manifest in these women writers’ articulation of women’s liminality between their cultural nations and the U.S. The chapters that follow analyze how women writers narrate the nation in various contexts while reinscribing women as subjects of national agency and the U.S. as a transnational and postnational site of contending memories and national narratives. Chapter II examines a possible women’s nationalist attempt to de-essentialize the nation by reading Silko’s Ceremony. Silko provides a hybrid narration of the nation that challenges the full blood subjects’ hegemonic model of Native American cultural nationalism. Silko, however, uses the gendered rhetoric of nation-as-women and denies women as national subject. Chapter III moves to a critical standpoint on cultural nationalism through reading Naylor’s Linden Hills. Tackling the unmarked status of masculinity in Silko’s project, chapter III examines how Naylor problematizes the gendered foundations of the African American cultural nation and deconstruct her contemporary African American cultural nationalism. Chapter IV discusses Kingston’s The Woman Warrior as a literary supplement to hegemonic history of the U.S. and Asian America and as a feminist corrective to masculinist narrations of the nation. The last chapter discusses the possibilities of transnational feminist coalitions through reading Keller’s Comfort Woman. In their feminist, transnational, or postnational critiques of nationalisms, women writers demonstrate that it is not possible to reimagin the nation without feminism and textually embody the significant contributions of feminism to contemporary liberatory movements.
Park, Mi Sun (2007). Reimagining the nation: gender and nationalism in contemporary U.S. women's literature. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from