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"For those who have no doorway": Palestinian literature and national consciousness

Schofield, Clemency Mary Lovedere (2006) "For those who have no doorway": Palestinian literature and national consciousness. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94640) (KAR id:94640)

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This thesis examines the part played by Palestinian literature in the formation of national consciousness. The importance of literature to national and anti-colonial struggles has long been recognised, but in the Palestinian situation it has taken on additional significance. Firstly, in the absence of territory it sought to unite a geographically dispersed people, many of whom had suffered severe trauma on being ejected from their homes and lands. A national imagining was vital to overcome feelings of alienation, both from the land and from other sectors of the population, and to create the idea of a national homeland, based on claims to spatial and historical belonging. Secondly, it had to counter a powerful ideology: that of the Zionist claim to the same land. The land is not just a geographical space; it is invested with memories and narratives, and it comes to embody what it means to be Palestinian. Thus the struggle is not only over the land but also over the meaning of the land. However, when a nationalist struggle is predicated largely on tropes of possession of a feminised land, a specifically gendered conception of national agency emerges, one that envisages the masculine as active and the feminine as passive. This thesis therefore investigates the implications of such an imagining. The question of how women themselves relate to the gendered discourse of nationalism - both how they attempt to insert themselves as national agents and how they contest masculinist tropes - is also considered. Additionally, Palestinian women frequently have to cross the psychologically-imposed threshold between the private and public realms, a division that is reinforced not only by patriarchy but also by fundamentalist visions of nation. In this respect, the significance of literature as an imaginary realm in which dominant paradigms can be questioned and reconfigured must not be underestimated. Finally, this thesis examines how writing helps overcome the sense of alienation associated with exile. A powerful dialectic is at work in exilic consciousness: the here-and-now of the hostile present is countered by the there-and-then of a sustaining past, but it is out of this dialectic that possibilities for the future emerge. I look at the way in which the playful appropriation of exile as the motif of our post-modern consciousness is challenged by much Palestinian exilic writing. Some writers find consolations in the condition of exile, while others reconfigure the meanings of return and journeying. The complexity and multivalent nature of Palestinian writing create a heterogeneous conception of nation that becomes the ideal of an inclusive national consciousness.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Rooney, Caroline R.
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94640
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2022 16:10 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2022 16:11 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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