Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Todd Thompson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Tanya Heflin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

David Downing, Ph.D.


My dissertation is primarily conceived as an application of Edward Said's theory of Orientalism to the study of American ethnic writers' "writing back" in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This historical period witnessed a dramatic change of American society and a rise of the US global power. It was also marked as a period of Orientalism with its exoticism, subjugation, and condescension. Set in this historical context, I argue that the American literature in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when American imperialism flourished, was repressive in terms of the denial of ethnic representations, namely, those of African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans; however, American realism in the 1880s, which embraced the explorations of new subject matters in the nation, also provided a kind of soil for ethnic writers to "write back" by challenging white cultural hegemony with literary works that represent their own ethnic identity and indigenous cultural heritage. My study expands the notion of "Orient" by distinguishing American Orientalism from the traditional European Orientalism. While the traditional European Orientalism is more geographically specific, the American Orientalism is basically culture-based, about a relationship between "the civilized" and "the savages." All the chapters of my dissertation, in different ways, aim to show to what extent the theory of Orientalism and the notion of cultural hegemony help us to understand the literary works produced by the Other at the turn of the century.