My dissertation examines the process whereby Nguyen Du's pre-modern verse narrative The Tale of Kieu became canonized as the Vietnamese national poem. The Tale of Kieu was moderately popular during the nineteenth century but it was only in the 1920s, during the era of French colonialism, that it came to be "naturalized" as the embodiment of the "Vietnamese soul." Using methods from the sociology of literature, my dissertation will explore how struggles over the growth of Vietnamese nationalism, the institutional development of a modern education system and the emergence of the field of modern literary history shaped the canonization of the poem. To demonstrate the instability of its "nationalist character," it analyzes bitter debates over the meaning and significance of the poem during eras marked by colonialism, socialism, American military occupation and post-socialist transition. Finally, the dissertation will consider whether textual features of The Tale of Kieu may, indeed, play some role in its remarkable durability as the "national poem" under radically different Vietnamese political regimes.