Jews in China and American Discourses of Identity in Pearl S. Buck’s Peony

Taryn L. Okuma, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring 2008), 115-139

This article seeks to bring the works of Pearl S. Buck to a higher place of prominence in American literary criticism by asserting that her work engages with many topics of modernity without following the complicated structures typical of twentieth-century American modernist writing. Instead, this article explores the connections between modern literature and popular fiction to show how Buck’s works supported and challenged understandings of modernity by engaging with a variety of cultural relations, tradition, and technology, and the role of women. A reading of Buck’s novel Peony (1948) reveals how the entanglement of its historical and romantic plots also shows the interdependency of narratives of race, nation, and gender. By examining the roles of Jews in China, Peony connects the identity discourses of twentieth-century America with discussions of marriage, illuminating how the narratives of identity intersect with historical realities of gender.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]