Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Hermine Pinson


This dissertation examines trickster sensibilities and behavior as models for racial strategies in contemporary novels by African American and Chinese American authors. While many trickster studies focus on myth, I assert that realist fiction provides a unique historical and cultural space that shapes trickster behavior. John Edgar Wideman, Gloria Naylor, Frank Chin and Maxine Hong Kingston use the trickster in their novels to articulate diverse racial strategies for people of color who must negotiate among a variety of cultural influences. My critical trickster paradigm investigates the motives and behavior of tricksters. It utilizes close literary readings that are strengthened by my comprehensive knowledge of the history of African Americans and Chinese Americans. Throughout time, images that define individuals in both groups develop in the popular imagination. The authors use the trickster to critique and revise those representations. African American authors also influence the racial discourse of Chinese American writers. I concluded that the literary trickster's behavior and sensibilities vary from character to character. I found that African American and Chinese American authors share some racial strategies. They also utilize different racial strategies as a result of the different historical and cultural experiences of African Americans and Chinese Americans. Moreover, male and female African American authors differ in the kinds of racial strategies they advocate, just as male and female Chinese American authors. Such research is significant because of its interdisciplinary exploration of racial strategies of African Americans and Chinese Americans. It provides an alternative approach to the study of the trickster. My work also goes beyond the black/white racial paradigm to explore the cultural dialogue between African American and Chinese American writers.



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