Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





John Brenkman

Committee Members

William Kelly

Louis Menand

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


This study is an exploration of the disruptions that can be perceived in American identity through a close examination of America's colonial experience in the Philippines in three different, but related, contexts. The first is an analysis of American writers' reactions to the colonization, specifically those of Mark Twain, W. E. B. Du Bois, and William James. These writers were vocal contributors to the debate surrounding the colonization, though, like the colonization itself, these works have been largely ignored. These writers identify contradictions in American identity, focusing on issues concerning race, capitalism, individualism, American innocence, exceptionalism, and self-reliance. These are issues that will resonate throughout the colonial experience, particularly in how the Americans presented themselves to the Filipinos and how they were judged by them.

The second context considered in this study is the educational system established in the Philippines and how American literature was used by the colonial regime to introduce America to its colony and inculcate American values. Close readings of standard texts in the curriculum like Washington Irving's The Alhambra, Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery, and Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay Self-Reliance suggest that the very ideals American writers found threatened by the colonization were the same values promulgated by Americans in the Philippines. The irony of this effort was not lost on Filipino students, some of whom became writers themselves.

The third context considered is the early literature in English written in the Philippines and the implicit and explicit critiques offered by Filipinos of the American regime. Filipino writers like Paz Marquez Benitez, Maximo Kalaw, and Juan C. Laya provide a radical reinterpretation of the American mission. Their penetrating analyses, written in the early twentieth century, remain relevant today, especially in light of the very powerful forces of American cultural imperialism that influence world cultures in the early twenty-first century.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.