Swati Rana | Race Characters: Ethnic Literature and the Figure of the American Dream

Thursday, April 29 at 4:00pm to 4:45pm


Join us online for a dialogue between Swati Rana (English) and Stephanie L. Batiste (English) about Rana’s new book, Race Characters: Ethnic Literature and the Figure of the American Dream. Audience Q&A will follow.

A vexed figure inhabits U.S. literature and culture: the visibly racialized immigrant who disavows minority identity and embraces the American dream. Such figures are potent and controversial, for they promise to expiate racial violence and perpetuate an exceptionalist ideal of America. Swati Rana grapples with these figures, building on studies of literary character and racial form. Rana offers a new way to view characterization through racialization that creates a fuller social reading of race. Situated in a nascent period of ethnic identification from 1900 to 1960, this book focuses on immigrant writers who do not fit neatly into a resistance-based model of ethnic literature. Writings by Paule Marshall, Ameen Rihani, Dalip Singh Saund, José Garcia Villa, and José Antonio Villarreal symbolize different aspects of the American dream, from individualism to imperialism, assimilation to upward mobility. The dynamics of characterization are also those of contestation, Rana argues. Analyzing the interrelation of persona and personhood, Race Characters presents an original method of comparison, revealing how the protagonist of the American dream is socially constrained and structurally driven.

Swati Rana is Assistant Professor of English at UC Santa Barbara. She specializes in twentieth-century U.S. literature, comparative ethnic literature, and transnational American studies. Her research has appeared in American Literary History, American Literature, and Journal of Asian American Studies, and her creative writing has appeared in The Paris ReviewGrantaCrazyhorseThe Asian American Literary ReviewWasafiri, and elsewhere.

Sponsored by the IHC’s Harry Girvetz Memorial Endowment

Free to attend; registration required to receive Zoom webinar attendance link