Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Kathleen Kane

Commitee Members

Samir Bitar, Eric Reimer


Flann O'Brien, Jamie O'Neill, Elias Khoury, postcolonialism, colonialism, diaspora, identity, heteroglossia, Ireland, Palestine, Israel, Valorie Thomas, M. M. Bakhtin, Mourid Barghouti, Emile Habiby


University of Montana


This thesis works to connect the literature of two geographically and historically disparate people – the Irish and the Palestinians. One can observe patterns of disjuncture, identity crisis, and identity formation in the history of one people; one can then apply the principles learned to analogous historical situations. I argue that the Irish and the Palestinians share a kind of communal psychological trauma brought about by the experience of imperial/colonial domination, violence, and especially diaspora. Because of this shared trauma, Ireland’s historical experience can offer insight into that of Palestine. The situations are unique, but at certain human levels they have a great deal in common. Out of a shared struggle for identity, competing and sometimes mutually exclusive claims to legitimacy rise – but so too do voices calling for humility, empathy, and unity. These are the voices I attempt to locate in the literature I engage. In the first chapter, I introduce the initial theoretical framework I employ to analyze two Irish novels. Bakhtin offers an understanding of speech in the context of a novel that I find to be a valuable lens through which to view Irish (and later, Palestinian) society itself. I identify Bakhtin’s heteroglossia as an inalienable truth underlying the makeup of all societies. I then note some of the connections – not only theoretical, but political, social, and ideological – between the Irish experience of diaspora and identity formation and the Palestinian experience of the same. In the second chapter, I deepen my theoretical approach significantly to supplement the theory I borrow and modify from Bakhtin. I then use several Palestinian works to locate certain trauma-induced commonalities between the texts, and show how this trauma creates an anxious field of possibilities for the diasporic population. I conclude by showing that current events continue to point to the ongoing traumatization and polarization of Israelis and Palestinians, and note that even in Ireland and Northern Ireland “peace” can be an anxious state. I attempt to show how real peace can only be found through empathy, which comes through listening to and caring for the voices of the Other.



© Copyright 2014 Benjamin Patrick Sweeney