Hertha D. Sweet Wong

Professor of the Graduate School

Hertha D. Sweet Wong is Professor of the Graduate School. She writes about and teaches autobiography, Native American literatures, ethnic American literatures, and visual studies. Her most recent book is Picturing Identity: Contemporary American Autobiography in Image and Text(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018). Combining approaches from autobiography studies and visual studies, she argues that grappling with the breakdown of identity and representation, late 20th-century writers and artists experiment with innovative interart autobiographical forms in an attempt to challenge and convey ever contingent and shifting identities.The project examines the vexed topic of late 20th-century American subjectivity, shaped by history, culture, place, and community, as it is represented in a variety of image-text forms: story quilts, artists' books, comic books, experimental autobiographies, word paintings, illustrated memoirs, and photo-auto/biographies. Such visual-verbal self-narrations provide a formal interart focus for examining questions about the possibilities of self-representation and self-narration, the boundaries of life writing, and the relationship between image and text.

She is also the author of Sending My Heart Back Across the Years: Tradition and Innovation in Native American Autobiography (Oxford UP, 1992) as well as numerous articles on Native American literatures, autobiography, visual culture, and environmental non-fiction. She is editor of Louise Erdrich’s “Love Medicine”:  A Casebook (Oxford UP, 2000). With Jana Sequoya Magdaleno and Lauren Stuart Muller, she is co-editor of Reckonings: Contemporary Short Fiction by Native American Women (Oxford UP, 2008) and with John Elder, co-editor of Family of Earth and Sky: Indigenous Tales of Nature from around the World (Beacon, 1994).

Current Research: 

She continues to work on visual narratives, focusing on writers and artists' autobiographical expressions and political interventions in image and text. Her essay, "Indigenous Lives, Visual Narratives," is forthcoming in The Cambridge History of Native American Literature edited by Melanie Benson Taylor. She is finalizing an essay on select works of Allan DeSouza and First Nations Kent Monkman, revising an essay on Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, and pondering how to construct her own autobiographical exploration.


Hertha D. Sweet Wong; Lauren Stuart Muller; Jana Sequoya Magdaleno
Edited volume, 2008

Selected Publications


"Archival Intervention: Surviving the 'Savage Splintering' in Deborah Miranda's Bad Indians." Invited Lecture. University of Warsaw, Poland. 30 May 2023.

"A Zanzibari Explorer in England and a First Nation Trickster Interlocutor in Canada." Modern Language Association Annual Conference. New York, Jan. 6, 2018.

Invited Chair of and Respondent to "The Place and Publics of Native Life Writing." American Studies Association Annual Conference. Denver, CO, Nov. 17, 2016.

"Architectures of Consciousness: Time and Subjectivity in Julie Chen's Artists' Books." Presented to the Autobiography International Conference, Söderstörn University, Stockholm, Sweden, October 2014.

 “Trauma, Self-Reflexivity, and Memory in Gabriele Schwab’s Haunting Legacies.”  Presented to the International Association for Philosophy and Literature (IAPL) Conference, National University of Singapore, Singapore, June 3-9, 2013.

 “Memory as Endlessly Deferred Return in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee.”  Presented to Rethinking the Humanities and Social Sciences Annual Conference:  “The Politics of Memory.”  University of Zadar, Croatia, Sept. 3-9, 2012.

 “Countering Visual Regimes:  History, Place, and Subjectivity in the Work of Hachivi Edgar Heap of Birds.”  Presented to the 26th Annual MELUS (Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States) Conference and the 8th Conference of the United States Association for Commonwealth Literatures and Languages Studies, San Jose, CA, April 19-22, 2012.

 “Reframing the Photographic Archive at Hampton Institute:  Carrie Mae Weems and Native/African American Visual Histories.”  Revised Paper.  Presented to the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies (INCS) Conference:  “Picturing the Nineteenth Century,” Lexington, KY, Mar. 22-25, 2012.

“Reframing the Photographic Archive at Hampton Institute:  Carrie Mae Weems’ Artistic Engagement with Native/African American Visual Histories.”  Presented to the International American Studies Group’s “Seeing the U.S. Through Visual and Material Culture” Conference, Giverny, France, May 30-June 4, 2010.

“Native and African American Confluences:  Carrie Mae Weems’ The Hampton Project.”  Presented to the American Literature Association Annual Conference, Boston, May 21-24, 2009.

 “Autobiographical Comix:  The Racialized Subject in Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese.”  Presented to American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Albuquerque, NM, October 16-19, 2008.

“Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese, an Autobiography in Comic Form,” 3rd Annual American Studies International Consortium:  “The United States in the World/The World in the United States,” Bancroft Hotel, Berkeley, CA, June 19-21, 2008.


423 Wheeler Hall

Office Hours

T 12-1 (Zoom) W 10-11 (423 Wheeler)