This thesis examines the dynamics of dispossession in two (post) colonial novels: Al-waqai‘ al-ghariba fi ikhtifa’ Sa‘id abu al-nahs al-mutasha’il (1974) by the Palestinian novelist Emile Habiby (translated as The Secret Life of Saeed: The Ill-Fated Pessoptimist [1985] by Salma Khadra Jayussi and Trevor Le Gassick) and Crossing the River (1995) by West Indian novelist Caryl Phillips. Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of the “chronotope,” “carnivalesque,” and “polyphony” are used to show how the two texts avoid using “a rhetoric of blame” (Edward Said’s expression) as their objective. Rather, both novels provide the Other’s version of an event to supplement the mainstream narrative; ultimately creating a multifaceted text that is inclusive. As a result, they creatively expose the ideological hierarchy that perpetuates dispossession, and how it affects both the oppressor and the oppressed. This study also observes parallels shared between them such as the use of racialized discourse to perpetuate the marginalization and dispossession of one group of society. The texts refer to events that the colonizer and the colonized share to expose (hi)stories that were silenced or misrepresented in the mainstream version of events to prompt the reader to explore, uncover and suspect the history written by the victors. Bakhtin’s critical theory illuminates the narrative strategies used by the works to achieve subversion of the hegemonic discourse, introduction of multiple viewpoints, and the weaving of history with imaginative episodes


English & Comparative Literature Department

Degree Name

MA in English & Comparative Literature

Graduation Date


Submission Date

June 2013

First Advisor

Ghazoul, Ferial Jabouri

Committee Member 1

Dworkin, Ira

Committee Member 2

Abdel-sser, Tahia


65 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Postcolonial theology.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

English literature.


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I dedicate this thesis to my late father Dr. Salah El-Deen Sabry (1939-2012), who lovingly dedicated his life to his family’s welfare and his children’s academic success. He may not be physically present to witness the completion of this humble work, but in his heart of hearts, he left us knowing I would complete this degree for him. Dad, thank you. I am indebted to my mother Abla Salah El-Deen, my sister Sherifa, and my brothers Sameh and Mohammed. Their love, faith in me and consistent encouragement propels me to succeed in life. I thank you. I am most grateful to Dr. Ferial Ghazoul. I am privileged to have one of the most formidable and distinguished academics in the field of Comparative Literature as my thesis advisor. I thank you for your patience and consistent motivation. I am the envy of all my friends. I am thankful for my readers Dr. Ira Dworkin and Dr. Tahia Abdel-sser. Their expertise and feedback has been essential to the completion of this work. A special thank you to Dr. Mai Al-kib, Department of English Language and Literature in Kuwait University. Her example inspired me to pursue a career in literature with enthusiasm and passion. I would like to thank the Department of English and Comparative Literature, faculty and staff, for their support during my graduate studies and facilitating my success in the department. Last but not least, I would like to extend my gratitude to the American University in Cairo, for providing me with the opportunity to excel academically, and for encouraging me to return to my home, Egypt.