American Self-Fashioning in Helen Foster Snow's My China Years.

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Date
2013
Authors
Post, Constance J.
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Abstract
In My China Years: A Memoir, Helen Foster Snow draws upon her Puritan roots in fashioning an American self that affirms the power of an individual exemplary life, the ability to exercise free will amid struggle, an optimism borne of hope, and a way to represent failure and success. Self-fashioning, which Stephen Greenblatt attributes to the rise of an autonomous self in early modern Europe, is shaped by Snow as a distinctly American identity based on a secular Puritanism she found more congenial than the Puritanism of her ancestors on both sides of the Atlantic. The many resemblances noted by Snow between the Chinese Communist Army and seventeenth-century English Puritanism led her to interrogate Puritanism, both in its traditional form and its secularised variant. What emerges in the pages of My China Years is an attempt to fashion an American self by negotiating an old Puritanism with the new by way of a triangulation with China.
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Keywords
Transnational Literature, Helen Foster Snow, My China Years, American self-Memoir, Tradition, Yoruba, African literature
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