Dissertation Defense Announcement
College of Arts and Sciences announces the Final Dissertation Defense of
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
March 28, 2019 at 3:00 PM in Patterson Hall, English Department Library
Advisor: Theron Britt
Novel Perspectives of the Iraq War
ABSTRACT: My dissertation, "Novel Perspectives of the Iraq War," explores literary representations of the American occupation of Iraq. Responding to Roy Scranton's argument that the prevailing narrative of the traumatized veteran returning home from war with experiential knowledge (what David Buchanan calls "combat gnosticism") has overshadowed other important perspectives, this project interrogates the manner in which cultural representations can both sustain and challenge national mythologies. Each of my chapters responds to a specific problem in our culture's popular narratives of war and argues that solutions to extant misperceptions are available via counternarratives. What connects these problems are their prevalence in the conventional war narrative and their shared basis in the ideology of American exceptionalism. My dissertation explores how these "other" representations of the Iraq War – those I classify "second-wave" to distinguish from the earlier-written "first-wave" novels that align with exceptionalist ideologies, those written and narrated by the perceived wartime Other (Iraqis), and those written by women featuring female protagonists – function as correctives and counternarratives to those that follow the literary tradition of the long twentieth century in perpetuating the myths of the trauma hero and combat gnosticism. The goal of this dissertation, through close readings, commentaries, and critical interventions, is to deepen our understanding of war fiction and the questions it raises about how the American cultural memory of war is constructed. By reading these works through the lens of cultural memory and trauma studies, with an eye toward ethnoculturalism and gender, my dissertation places these texts into ongoing critical conversations. It is my hope that this study and the novels it interprets as exemplars of a new, more inclusive narrative will encourage a re-assessment of the war-literature genre and a reconsideration of the ways we narrativize – and mythologize – war.