Sui Sin Far, Nationality, and the American Melting Pot


Sui Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton) begins the final paragraph of  her “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of a Eurasian” (1909) with two sentences that sum up her argument throughout: “After all I have no nationality and am not anxious to claim any. Individuality is more than nationality” (252). These two sentences challenge our understanding of “nation” and “nationalism” in a similar way that Editha’s continual appeals to national honor in William Dean Howells’ story by asking us as readers to question what we mean when we use these terms. Today, I want to briefly explore some aspects of Far’s text that we can tease out with students to help them think about the implications of closed, insular nation states.

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William Dean Howells’ “Editha,” Richard Lovelace, and Shakespeare

Typically, critics read William Dean Howells’ “Editha” as a story that comments on our need to proclaim our national identities through patriotism and war and how that continual proclamation does more harm than good. Others read “Editha” through a feminist lens arguing that the focus of the story lies in the ways that Editha and Mrs. Gearson work to exert power over George. Today, I want to offer a reading that exists in the middle ground between these two position by examining the allusions to works by Richard Lovelace and William Shakespeare that appear in the story.

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Collaborative Project for Literature Classroom

Last semester, I had students construct presentations of terms and historical events in my Early American Literature survey course. I have a posts on the assignment itself and on some of the projects that students created. This semester, I am tweaking that assignment in a couple of ways. Rather than having students present on specific terms and presenting during the last week of class, I am having students present on texts by authors that we will be covering throughout the semester. I have done something like this before with the Wikis in my “The City in American Literature Course.” This project, however, is a little bit different. Below, you will find a description of the project and a discussion of my thinking in regards to its construction.

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