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For the Record: Gendered Collective Memory in the Works of Pauline Hopkins, Edith Eaton/ Sui Sin Far and Abraham Cahan


"For the Record" makes use of collective memory theory, paired with the tools of literary analysis, in order to examine the role of gendered collective memory in the literature of the Progressive Era--a time when the question of who could, and who could not belong to the American "nation-family" was tied, inextricably, to debates about racial and cultural "inheritances," integration, assimilation and the codification of a coherent American identity and memory tradition. My various chapters exploring the works of Pauline Hopkins, Edith Eaton/ Sui Sin Far, and Abraham Cahan consider the ways gendered memory produces, and is, in turn, produced by works of literature. This dissertation shows how these texts act, formally, as records of gendered memory, and how these records offer readers alternative forms of Americanness than the formations allowed by a "competitive" approach to collective memory and identity, predicated upon racial and gender hierarchies. By eschewing this competitive approach and, instead, adopting a "multidirectional" perspective, these records posit new possibilities for an evolving, inclusive, multicultural American selfhood and tradition. My first chapter, examining Pauline Hopkins's Contending Forces, considers the problems of gendered violence, silencing and subjectivity in the creation of an integrated American identity and memory tradition. My second chapter examines four short stories written by Edith Eaton/ Sui Sin Far, and considers the plasticity of selfhood and its relation to questions of transnationalism, imperialism and to figurations of the national family at the turn of the century. My third chapter looks at two stories by Jewish-American author, Abraham Cahan, and considers how these texts highlight the ways immigrant characters' relationships with the maintenance of Jewish tradition, and with Americanization, are informed by tradition-specific ideals of gendered performance--particularly, female performance. Elucidating these texts' various negotiations of gendered collective memory and its relation to group and national identity serves to reorient understanding of the dialectical relationship between storytelling, record-making and theories of American nationalism during The Progressive era.

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