Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Allison


In this dissertation, I examine the portrayal of filial relationships in the fiction of James Joyce, Hanif Kureishi, and Zadie Smith. I assert that each of these authors, albeit in different ways, uses the archetypal father and son relationship to interrogate the formation of national identity and the concept of national belonging in modern, anticolonial or postcolonial cultures, including Ireland at the dawn of the twentieth century and Britain in the late twentieth century. Chapter one focuses on Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922). I argue that rather than solely bonding in a symbolic father and son relationship, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom also develop a companionable friendship and their differing qualities merge to uncover a modern voice with which an artist may represent Ireland. In chapter two, I analyze Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) and argue that the protagonist’s relationship with his father illustrates the benefits of commodifying one’s identity in postcolonial Britain. Chapter 3 examines Zadie Smith’s first two novels: White Teeth (2000) and The Autograph Man (2002). I argue that the father, Samad Iqbal in White Teeth, refuses to embrace his multifaceted, ambiguous identity, and instead adopts a binary mindset, which significantly affects his parenting choices and therefore influences the national identity formation of his twin sons. Alex Li-Tandem, the protagonist of The Autograph Man, similarly works to understand his complex identity with oversimplified methods. I assert that both texts demonstrate the inadequacies of essentialist thinking because the multicultural environment of the twentieth century necessitates a willingness to accept multiple, complex identities and to explore one’s own intersectionality. Taken together, the works of Joyce, Kureishi, and Smith show that the archetype of the father and son relationship remains a valuable lens through which to explore essentialism, multiculturalism, and hybridity.

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