Hertha D. Sweet Wong

Research Expertise and Interest

American literature, native American literature, autobiography, ethnic American literature

Research Description

Hertha D. Sweet Wong's research interests include Ethnic and Native American literatures, autobiography, and visual culture studies.

Hertha D. Sweet Wong is the author of Sending My Heart Back Across the Years: Tradition and Innovation in Native American Autobiography (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1992). As well as authoring numerous articles on Native American literature, she is the editor of Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine: A Casebook (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2000); the co-editor with Jana Sequoya Magdaleno, and Lauren Stuart Muller, of Reckonings: Contemporary Short Fiction by Native American Women (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), and with John Elder, of Family of Earth and Sky: Indigenous Tales of Nature from around the World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994).

Her most recent book, Picturing Identity: Contemporary American Autobiography in Image and Text (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2018), examines the intersection of writing and visual art in the autobiographical work of eight 20th and 21st-century American writers and artists–including Maus comic book author Art Spiegelman, story quilt artist Faith Ringgold, Dictée author and artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Cheyenne conceptual artist Hachivi Edgar Heap of Birds, illustrated memoirist Peter Najarian, book artist Julie Chen, and celebrated Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon,–each of whom employ a mix of written and visual forms of self-narration.

Combining approaches from autobiography studies and visual studies, Wong argues that grappling with the breakdown of stable definitions of identity and unmediated representation, these writers-artists experiment with hybrid autobiography in image and text to break free of inherited visual-verbal regimes and revise painful histories These works provide an interart focus for examining the possibilities of self-representation and self-narration, the boundaries of life writing, and the relationship between image and text. The writers-artists formulate webs of intersubjectivity shaped by historical trauma, geography, race, and gender as they envision new possibilities of selfhood and fresh modes of self-narration in word and image.

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