Date of Graduation

5-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Elías Domínguez Barajas

Committee Member

Susan Marren

Second Committee Member

Padma Viswanathan

Keywords

Language, Literature and linguistics, Social sciences, Ethnic anxiety, Immigrant literature, Latino/a American literature, Nostalgia, Socio-economic and political alienatio, South Asian American Literature

Abstract

Generally thought of as a yearning for recent past, or homesickness, nostalgia is seen as a sentiment that impairs living in the present. And in case of immigrants, nostalgia is thought of as a debilitating form of escapism and an inability to adapt to change and mobility. In this dissertation, contesting against the prevalent concept, I argue that immigrant nostalgia is neither a colored memory (Dyson 117) nor a romance with one’s own fantasy (Boym xiii); rather, immigrant nostalgia has a socio-economic and political underpinning. By exploring the various nuances of immigrant experience delineated in the literary works of South Asian and Latino/a American writers from 1960 to the present, I explore the dynamics at work in generating nostalgia in the immigrant protagonists.

The central argument of this dissertation is that nostalgia that afflicts the protagonists of immigrant literature does not spring from any idealized or imagined version of the past, nor is it triggered by a uniquely experienced past; instead, nostalgia is a complex state of mind that is triggered by socio-political and cultural alienation. Close scrutiny of the immigrant experience depicted in the selected literary texts reveals that immigrants’ dissatisfied and disconnected condition in the adopted land is responsible for their homesickness and nostalgia. However, I go beyond the discussion of the causes of nostalgia and show how their nostalgia is actually is an intransigent desire for a secured and stable existence in the adopted land. I also highlight nostalgia’s positive role in instrumenting the reformulation of the self that help the immigrant protagonists have a strong sense of themselves and their position in the adopted land.

The dissertation also examines the functions of immigrant novels in the contemporary globalized world and takes a broader critical approach in drawing a connection between the disenfranchisement of immigrants and their tendency toward nostalgia. Finally, I conclude by arguing that the genre’s preoccupations with the themes of nostalgia and cultural conflict may actually be read as attempts at representing the crises that immigrants go through in their process of adjusting to a new country.

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