Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Co-chair

Kathleen Kane, Robert Baker

Commitee Members

Richard Drake


American Pastoral, Andrew Bacevich, Judith Butler, Mahasweta Devi, Philip Roth, Weather Underground, world revolution of 1968, world-systems analysis, 9/11, Naxalites, terrrorism, Mother of 1084


University of Montana


This thesis explores social justice issues obliquely, through the eye of the literary, as represented in two novels, Philip Roth’s American Pastoral and Mahasweta Devi’s Mother of 1084. Each novel narrates a moment in the world revolution of 1968, and through that moment, unfolds themes of revolution, terrorism, and the variety of aftermaths such events called forth within the larger geopolitical landscape. In comparing the particular locales of Newark, New Jersey, as Roth describes it, and Kolkata, India, as Devi portrays it, I hope to probe some of the multiple experiential confluences and divergences within the core-periphery geoculture of 1968. To do so, I employ Immanuel Wallerstein’s model of world-system analysis. Through his perspective, I try to draw near a description of the ways in which proximity to social injustice informs and shapes experiences of protest, specifically in terms of the actual geocultural realities configured, as they are, by our capitalist world-system. A question this thesis asks, then, is how do bourgeois culture and revolutionary culture mutually constitute one another. In response to Roth’s and Devi’s choice to explore radical Marxist politics within the bourgeois family structure, I engage the way in which emotions—in particular, grief—collide with and are shaped by political rhetoric and reality at the nation-state and, later, global level. Finally, this comparison has led me to ask, what place does concern about human rights and, more generally, global asymmetric power relations occupy in the ordinary everydayness of our lives, when history, as Roth puts it, comes into our living room? Or, when language, in Devi’s formulation, becomes weapon? To explore the way domestic life encounters the global, I turn to international relations professor Andrew Bacevich and post-strucutralist philosopher Judith Butler. These two writers enter into their respective discussions of current global politics by first considering September 11 as a condition of possibility, as a moment, before and after which we could have chosen to do something other than what we did. The events of September 11 and the world revolution of 1968, I argue, can serve as spaces through which we can contemplate the condition of the possible, in other words, spaces in which we might begin to imagine our lives and our world as otherwise. Through the literary, we transformatively enter into the realm of the possible, and in contemplating such a condition, find our way toward a renewed sense of agency over how we story, over how we take account of our lives, and, hence, over how we choose to live them. It is the contention of this project that Roth and Devi, viewed in concert, offer rich possibilities for doing just this.

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© Copyright 2009 Clare Marie Sigrist-Sutton