Immigrant nations, postimmigrant subjectivities: locating the immigrant in the age of globalization

Stolar, Batia Boe (2003) Immigrant nations, postimmigrant subjectivities: locating the immigrant in the age of globalization. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The term immigrant is persistently dismissed in contemporary immigrant narratives in Canada and the United States, as well as in the literary criticism about immigrant literature. As the immigrant gives way to the diasporic, the exile, the nomad or the border-crosser, we need to reconsider the meanings of the term itself in order to investigate why this dismissal occurs at a time when we are veering closer to a multicultural society that appears to erase national borders on the one hand and to maintain the borders of the local on the other. Why has the term immigrant become objectionable? Why does it no longer reflect the subjective pulls and tensions that contemporary literary and critical trends depict and interrogate? To answer these questions, we must turn back to what can be termed the "classic" or "heroic" immigrant narrative that has dominated most of the twentieth century. Doing so allows us to trace the development of the term immigrant, as it acquires multiple significations which rupture its already fragile meanings. -- This dissertation examines the acquisition of multiple meanings and subcategorization that the term immigrant undergoes throughout the twentieth century. To explore this semiotic fragmentation, it is necessary to examine the complex relationship that exists between the immigrant and the nations/he enters into. As the nation defines the immigrant, so too does the immigrant define the nation. By focusing on three key moments in the legislative history of Canada and the United States (the 1921 and 1924 national origins quota system of immigration and the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act in the United States, and the 1976 Immigration Act and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in Canada), we can explore how the meaning of the term immigrant ruptures to produce conflicting subcategories that problematize any coherent or authoritative meaning. In addition, we need to explore how the literature corresponding to each of these three historical moments responds to the legislation changes that redefine the meaning of the immigrant. This dissertation therefore focuses on Anzia Yezierska's Bread Givers and Frederick Philip Grove's A Search for America in the 1920s, Jack Finney's and Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Adele Wiseman's The Sacrifice in the 1950s, and Austin Clarke's Nine Men Who Laughed, Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion and Bharati Mukerhjee's Jasmine in the 1980s and 1990s. Each of these literary or cinematic fictions responds to its contemporary immigrant issues, not only voicing the concerns but redefining the immigrant by literarily inscribing the immigrant into being.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/11478
Item ID: 11478
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 428-447.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 2003
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Immigrants in literature.

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