Postcolonial Tragedy: Sacrifice, Failure, and the Resiliency of Hope

Doctoral Dissertation


How do we find hope in tragedy? How can a form so important to the Western notion of identity be used to challenge the supposed authority of colonialism? This dissertation looks at the legacy of tragedy in the postcolonies to ask questions about the interaction of form and politics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. While making room for formal variances, this study concludes that there is a tradition of tragedy that exists in formerly colonized cultures that is linked through a thematic emphasis on sacrifice, failure, and hope. Engaging with and pushing back against the model of tragedy prescribed by Aristotle, these postcolonial tragedies open up new ways of thinking about hope and resiliency in the catharsis of staged tragedy.

Postcolonial Tragedy: Sacrifice, Failure, and the Resiliency of Hope identifies these themes in representative works from four different regions and three different time periods. The study begins with the build-up to the Irish independence movement in the last days of the nineteenth century before moving on to the celebrations of decolonization in West Africa and the Caribbean in the mid-twentieth century. The study concludes with a comparison of the theatres of resistance in South Africa and Northern Ireland towards the end of the twentieth century. Using the shared form of tragedy, this study creates a space for emphasizing both the converges between these disparate decolonial movements as well as the critical, aesthetic, and political divergences.


Attribute NameValues
Author Julian Breandán Dean
Contributor Susan C. Harris, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline English
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
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Defense Date
  • 2021-11-22

Submission Date 2021-11-30
  • English

  • Irish

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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