Date of Award

Fall 2002

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Sandhya Shetty


In "Excavating the Remains of Empire: War and Postimperial Trauma in the Twentieth-Century Novel," I investigate the implications of the residual presence of empire in the contemporary novel set in England, by questioning that if it is generally accepted that in the age of imperialism novels co-produced empire, what do they now, in this historical moment of the late twentieth-century, produce in its stead? Do shame and nostalgia for empire and the trauma of empire's dissolution coexist in the postimperial, postwar novel? I use war as the key point of entry into the empire and novel connection, and claim that war operates in the novel on three essential fronts: as resulting from and encoding imperial tensions, as the traumatic event which magnifies empire's dissolution, and as the only acceptable model for a nation in crisis. Because war both results from and encodes imperial tensions, and novels are so often the battleground on which these imperial tensions wrestle for signification and reformulation, then war in novels can serve as the double lens which magnifies the residual workings of empire and the novel. I begin with Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, and claim that in it she reveals the limitations of the binaries of war and empire, while also portraying the anxieties regarding empire that have been raised by the First World War; I show how Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy incorporates these two aspects as well, yet also furthers the connection between war and empire by using war to work out the traumas caused by v empire's loss; I claim that Margaret Drabble has a similar project in The Gates of Ivory , in which she too explicates this traumatic loss of cultural identity resulting from the end of empire; and then I proceed to an examination of how Amitav Ghosh shows the restrictions of war as the narrative of a nation in The Shadow Lines, while also proving war to itself be a significant means of empire's perpetuation. Despite the fact that the British Empire has been officially dismantled, imperialism and the novel are still inter-connected.