Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Karem, Jeff

Subject Headings

Lahiri, Jhumpa -- Criticism and interpretation, Lahiri, Jhumpa, Unaccustomed earth, East Indian diaspora in literature, Culture in literature, Language and languages -- Philosophy, Diaspora, Polyphony, Jhumpa Lahiri


This study combines Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of polyphony with the study of diaspora because it allows for an inclusive study of the reciprocating relationships between culture, language, and the representation and acculturation of identity. Polyphony can not only address the present and future sense of self of characters, it can also keep diasporic studies from becoming too limiting by exploring the different voices at work in the characters' construction of self. Jhumpa Lahiri's short fiction is appropriate for this study because of her stories' simultaneous autonomy and interconnectedness, a key component to polyphony. As Lahiri's characters remember back to earlier generations and look ahead to future ones, and as they constantly struggle to construct an identity in their interactions with diverse and traditional characters, Lahiri's stories emphasize the transience not only of a sense of self dependent upon locale, but also of how a sense of self is always contingent upon a character's ability to cope with and communicate with an ever-changing world. In general, the characters who rely too heavily on homeland nostalgia and the characters who look only toward progressing in diasporic space are unsuccessful in finding a space for their own identity. To truly construct self revolves around the ability to transcend these oppositions as either-or scenarios and accept and navigate them as personal options or beliefs