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Title:Cultural engagement in missionary China: American missionary novels 1880-1930
Author(s):Lin, Yi-Ling
Director of Research:Chai, Leon
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Hassan, Wail S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Palencia-Roth, Michael; Tierney, Robert T.; Xu, Gary G.; Huntington, Rania
Department / Program:Comparative & World Literature
Discipline:Comparative Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):American missionary novels
cultural assimilation
cultural identification
Abstract:From a comparative standpoint, the American Protestant missionary enterprise in China was built on a paradox in cross-cultural encounters. In order to convert the Chinese—whose religion they rejected—American missionaries adopted strategies of assimilation (e.g. learning Chinese and associating with the Chinese) to facilitate their work. My dissertation explores how American Protestant missionaries negotiated the rejection-assimilation paradox involved in their missionary work and forged a cultural identification with China in their English novels set in China between the late Qing and 1930. I argue that the missionaries’ novelistic expression of that identification was influenced by many factors: their targeted audience, their motives, their work, and their perceptions of the missionary enterprise, cultural difference, and their own missionary identity. Hence, missionary novels may not necessarily be about conversion, the missionaries’ primary objective but one that suggests their resistance to Chinese culture, or at least its religion. Instead, the missionary novels I study culminate in a non-conversion theme that problematizes the possibility of cultural assimilation and identification over ineradicable racial and cultural differences. My dissertation redresses a significant oversight in current scholarship on American missionary novels, which focuses on those of the Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck only.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Yi-ling Lin
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08

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