A Relentless Quest for Identity: Hyphenation and Accent at the Crossroads of Film and American Literature, 1970- Present



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My dissertation examines American ethnic literature and world cinema since 1970. I explore the ways in which authors and filmmakers construct female ethnic identities. I focus on the importance and the role of the domestic sphere for searching and creating a female ethnic identity. Domesticity and the private sphere greatly contribute to the process of searching for identities. Though patriarchy oppresses women by determining the nature of their private sphere, some post-colonial feminists argue that ethnic writers and filmmakers can find power in their domesticity, channeling it to help search for and create ethnic and accented identities in film and literature. My dissertation is divided into three main parts: storytelling, food, and beyond domesticity. I examine American ethnic literature and world cinema since 1970, exploring the ways in which authors like Diana Abu Jaber, Jhumba Lahiri, Maxine Hong Kingston, Julia Alveraz, Randa Jarrar, and May-Lee Chai and filmmakers like Sabiha Summar, Atom Egoyan, Nadine Labaki, Alfonso Aru, and Eran Riklis construct ethnic identities through their narratives. Throughout, I am concerned with how gender, social class, religion, and sexuality inflect ethnic identities, and place these American novels and international films in dialogue with the larger, transnational conversation around immigration, exile, and identity in world literature and film. I combine theoretical frameworks from world cinema and the study of American ethnic literature to illuminate the construction of ethnicity in the contemporary American context and to critically explore the disciplinary divide between literature and film. Although the critical discourses on world cinema and American ethnic literature have historically been distinct, they share similar preoccupations with cultural identity. I bring them together to illuminate the construction of hyphenated identities in the contemporary world. Film and literature have shared a close relationship since the earliest cinema. In narrating a story, the sequence of images on a screen are similar to the sequence of images conjured by words on a page; the study of literature illuminates meaning in film, and the study of film illuminates meaning in literature. Novelists and filmmakers investigate and narrate themes of identity, meanwhile, in ways that are characterized by the specific properties of each field.



American literature ǂx Minority authors, Intercultural communication in motion pictures, American literature ǂx Arab American authors, Motion pictures