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Graduation Term


Document Type

Dissertation-ISU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Committee Chair

Robert McLaughlin


The aim of this dissertation is to expand the understanding of the war novel to include historical fiction that is set in distal spaces of war. I refer to these spaces as transgenerational and locate them within the diameter of war. I examine representations of language in these spaces, specifically focusing on silence, denial, and dys-/disarticulation. Such breakdowns of communication and attempts at innovative language are post-traumatic consequences of war. I investigate how trauma functions transgenerationally, in relation to World War I and World War II, and how it is evident in language by providing three major examples of twenty-first century literature. This re-imagining of the war novel reveals the pervasiveness of war by drawing connections to several disciplines, including history, trauma theory, memory studies, spatial theory, and rhetoric.

In the second chapter, I examine trust in language after the Holocaust of WWII, focusing on Nicole Krauss's The History of Love. I study the role of morally resonant language in demanding justice and restoring dignity to Holocaust victims by probing

metaphoric language and official narrative and uncovering traumatic breaches of trust and prosthetic memory. Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul, in which the novelist confronts the Armenian genocide of WWI, is the focus of the third chapter. Through the novel and its context, I study the rhetoric of denial, perpetrators' arguments, and imposed and purposeful silence in diaspora spaces and spaces of initial trauma. In the fourth chapter, Micheline Aharonian Marcomâ's use of neologisms, code-switching, and dys-/disarticulation in The Daydreaming Boy is employed to interrogate the relationship between physical and linguistic displacements. In each novel, the pervasiveness of war is evident through transgenerational impact and continued persecution, which are often made invisible. The final chapter details a three year study of primarily dominant war novels in the classroom. By scrutinizing authoritative narratives of war and the foundation of students' initial responses, I explicate the process of transforming their immediate reactions to historical fiction into critical insights.


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