Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)

Document Type



In this dissertation, I have analyzed the migrant experience of Chinese immigrants in North America through their representation in literature and photography. Each of its three chapters focuses on three major ethnic issues affecting the lives and identity of Chinese immigrants and their offspring in North America: the first concerns the ways in which occupation, home, and family affect the destinies of Chinese immigrants; the second deals with the role of language in the lives of Chinese immigrants and the career of Chinese migrant writers; the third addresses stereotypes about Chinese immigrants and their offspring and the redefinition of their identity. In this interdisciplinary study, literature inspires us to picture verbally Chinese immigrants’ struggles under the discriminatory laws and prejudices of society, and their search for respect and equal rights. As for the medium of photography, it provides ample visual evidence that reinforces and complements the literary representations of them. I have chosen to study the literary works by Frank Chin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Qiu Xiaolong, Ha Jin, Fae Myenne Ng, David Henry Hwang, Li-Young Lee, Wayson Choy, and Ying Chen. All of them are pivotal figures and explorers of contemporary Chinese ethnic literature in the United States and Canada. Their work offers a multifaceted history of the Chinese immigrants in North America from the late nineteenth century to the present. Along with the study of Chinese American photographers, Mary Tape, Benjamen Chinn, Corky Lee, and Wing Young Huie, I have added a discussion of the work of two American photographers, Arnold Genthe and George Grantham Bain. The contrasting views that emerge help to illuminate the processes of stereotyping as well as identity construction. The work of the Americans focuses on the immigrants’ “Chineseness”, while that of the Chinese Americans seeks to present Chinese immigrant life and the fight for equality from within the Chinese American community. My discussion of the work of these writers and photographers will bring further attention to the difficulties and the challenges facing the Chinese ethnic group in North America.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Boelhower, William