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  • Jeannie Pfaelzer
    Jean Pfaelzer
    University of Delaware
    Department of English
    135 Memorial Hall
    Newark, DE 19716
    (302) 831-6722


    Jean Pfaelzer is Professor of English, Women and Gender Studies, and Asian Studies at the University of Delaware. During spring 2013 she is a Bartlett Giometti Fellow at the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library, Yale University. During spring 2011, she held the Senior Fulbright in American Culture at the University of Utrecht, NL. She is the author of Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans (Random House, Hardback & University of California Press, Paperback), the author of four other books including Parlor Radical: Rebecca Harding Davis and the Origins of American Social Realism and The Utopian Novel in America: The Politics of Form. Prof. Pfaelzer is working on two forthcoming books Of Human Bondage: Slavery in California and completing Muted Mutinies: Slave Revolts on Chinese Coolie Ships (both University of California Press).

    Driven Out was named one of the 100 notable books of the year by the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Top Ten Books of the Year by Choice, and she was named Asian American Hero by Asian Librarians Association. Jean is on the Scholars Council of the National Women’s History Museum and was a consultant on the “1882 Project”, a Congressional resolution which passed the US Senate and House of Representative in spring 2012 to acknowledge the history of anti-Chinese legislation.  She writes for Huffington Post, History News Network, and The Globalist and speaks frequently on NPR and Pacifica on issues of labor and immigration.  Jean is currently on the team curating the exhibit “I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story” for the Smithsonian Museum of American History which opened in May 2013. She curated “Asian American Women: A History of Resistance and Resilience” for the National Women’s History Museum.

    Jean Pfaelzer received her Ph.D. from University College, London, Graduate Certificate in Politics and Culture from Cambridge University (Dir. Raymond Williams) and B.A. and M.A. from Univ. California, Berkeley (Dir. Henry Nash Smith). She has served as Chair of the International Women’s Task Force, on the International Committee of ASA, and the Women’s Committee of American Studies Association. She has taught and delivered lectures at Xi’an International Studies University, China, and at the Universities of Granada, Malaga, Barcelona, Seville, in Spain; Universities of Utrecht, Leiden, Nijmegen, Netherlands; Univ. at Thessaloniki, GR; University of Norwich, UK, and University of Coimbra, Portugal, amongst other places. She has served as the Executive Director of the National Labor Law Center, and as Senior Legislative Analyst for Hon. Frank McCloskey, US House of Representatives, on issues of immigration, labor, and women. She speaks frequently on National Public Radio on issues of immigration and labor.

    Jean teaches from an interdisciplinary perspective in undergraduate and graduate studies in Nineteenth Century American Studies, American Realism, American Women Writers, Asian American Culture and History, The Culture of Work, Feminist Theory, and Utopian Culture and Theory. She won the UDEL Mortarboard Award for Outstanding Teacher of the Year.


  • Ph.D., English and American Literature , University of London, 1976
  • M.A., English and Literature and Society, University of Cambridge, 1970
  • M.A., English and American Literature, University of California - Berkeley, 1967
  • B.A., English, University of California - Berkeley, 1965

Research Projects 


  • Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans
    Pfaelzer, Jean
    Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

    ​The brutal and systematic “ethnic cleansing” of Chinese Americans in California and the Pacific Northwest in the second half of the nineteenth century is a shocking–and virtually unexplored–chapter of American history. Driven Out unearths this forgotten episode in our nation’s past. Drawing on years of groundbreaking research, Jean Pfaelzer reveals how, beginning in 1848, lawless citizens and duplicitous politicians purged dozens of communities of thousands of Chinese residents–and how the victims bravely fought back.

    In town after town, as races and classes were pitted against one another in the raw and anarchistic West, Chinese miners and merchants, lumberjacks and field workers, prostitutes and merchants’ wives, were gathered up at gunpoint and marched out of town, sometimes thrown into railroad cars along the very tracks they had built.

    Here, in vivid detail, are unforgettable incidents such as the torching of the Chinatown in Antioch, California, after Chinese prostitutes were accused of giving seven young men syphilis, and a series of lynchings in Los Angeles bizarrely provoked by a Chinese wedding. From the port of Seattle to the mining towns in California’s Siskiyou Mountains to “Nigger Alley” in Los Angeles, the first Chinese Americans were hanged, purged, and banished. Chinatowns across the West were burned to the ground.

    But the Chinese fought back: They filed the first lawsuits for reparations in the United States, sued for the restoration of their property, prosecuted white vigilantes, demanded the right to own land, and, years before Brown v. Board of Education, won access to public education for their children. Chinese Americans organized strikes and vegetable boycotts in order to starve out towns that tried to expel them. They ordered arms from China and, with Winchester rifles and Colt revolvers, defended themselves. In 1893, more than 100,000 Chinese Americans refused the government’s order to wear photo identity cards to prove their legal status–the largest mass civil disobedience in United States history to that point.

    Driven Out features riveting characters, both heroic and villainous, white and Asian. Charles McGlashen, a newspaper editor, spearheaded a shift in the tactics of persecution, from brutality to legal boycotts of the Chinese, in order to mount a run for governor of California. Fred Bee, a creator of the Pony Express, became the Chinese consul and one of the few attorneys willing to defend the Chinese. Lum May, a dry goods store owner, saw his wife dragged from their home and driven insane. President Grover Cleveland, hoping that China’s 400,000 subjects would buy the United States out of its economic crisis, persuaded China to abandon the overseas Chinese in return for a trade treaty. Quen Hing Tong, a merchant, sought an injunction against the city of San Jose in an important precursor to today’s suits against racial profiling and police brutality.

    In Driven Out, Jean Pfaelzer sheds a harsh light on America’s past. This is a story of hitherto unknown racial pogroms, purges, roundups, and brutal terror, but also a record of valiant resistance and community. This deeply resonant and eye-opening work documents a significant and disturbing episode in American history.

  • Parlor Radical: Rebecca Harding Davis and the Origins of American Social Realism
    Pfaelzer, Jean
    Pittsburgh, PA: Univerity of Pittsburgh Press, 1996.

    ​Rebecca Harding Davis was a prominent author of radical social fiction during the latter half of the nineteenth century. In stories that combine realism with sentimentalism, Davis confronted a wide range of contemporary American issues, giving voice to working women, slaves, freedmen, fishermen, prostitutes, wives seeking divorce, celibate utopians, and female authors. Moreover, in her stunning blend of sentiment, gritty detail, and vernacular fiction, Davis broke down distinctions between the private and public worlds, distinctions that trapped women in the ideology of domesticity. In the first study to consider Davis as a literary activist, Jean Pfaelzer describes how Davis fulfilled her own charge to women authors to write "the inner life and history of their time with a power which shall make that time alive for future ages." By engaging current strategies in literary hermeneutics with a strong sense of historical radicalism in the Gilded Age, Pfaelzer reads Davis through the public issues that this major nineteenth-century writer forcefully inscribes in her fiction. In Pfaelzer's study, Davis's realistic narratives actively construct a coherent social work, not in a fictional vacuum but in direct engagement with the explosive movements of social change from the Civil War through the turn of the century.

  • The Utopian Novel in America, 1886–1896: The Politics of Form
    Pfaelzer, Jean
    Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985.

    ​In the late 1800s, Americans flocked to cities, immigration, slums, and unemployment burgeoned, and America's role in foreign affairs grew. This period also spawned a number of fictional glimpses into the future. After the publication of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward in 1888, there was an outpouring of utopian fantasy, many of which promoted socialism, while others presented refined versions of capitalism. Jean Pfaelzer's study traces the impact of the utopian novel and the narrative structures of these sentimental romances. She discusses progressive, pastoral, feminist, and apocalyptic utopias, as well as the genre's parodic counterpart, the dystopia.

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