Date of Award

Spring 2007

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ratcliffe, Krista

Second Advisor

Rivero, Albert

Third Advisor

Gillespire, Michael Patrick


The purpose of this dissertation is to argue that trauma theory provides a productive critical framework for interpreting Patrick McCabe's novels Carn and Breakfast on Pluto, two novels that have received little to no critical attention prior to this study. My criticism focuses on the way that trauma theory allows us to better understand McCabe's use of narrative technique and narrator voice to create differing emotional effects in the narrative; his insight into character psychology, primarily with the use of elements of trauma experience (such as flash back, dissonance, avoidance, numbing, etc.) to create characters that can be understood and explained best through analysis by trauma theory; and his focus on the repercussions of unresolved trauma experience on character motivation and ultimate life choices. I utilize Dr. Judith Herman's rubric of the stages of trauma and recovery, "establishing safety, reconstructing the trauma story, and restoring the connection between survivors and their community," from her seminal book Trauma and Recovery for the sequence and organization of this dissertation, and frame my chapters accordingly (3). Further, I use Kali Tal's discussion of personal and national (collective) myth from her book Worlds of Hurt to illuminate the devastating repercussions of the trauma experienced by the characters in this study to help the reader to understand the significance of the silencing experienced by Josie Keenan in Carn and the trauma recovery journey embarked upon by Patrick Braden in Breakfast on Pluto (115-16). When read in tandem, Carn and Breakfast on Pluto walk the reader through the stages of trauma and recovery, specifically emphasizing the way that disparate forms of trauma have affected the characters' understanding of personal and cultural identity. I contend that reading Carn and Breakfast on Pluto through the lens of trauma theory demonstrates how Patrick McCabe's work challenges and reconstructs societal myths to emphasize and demonstrate the way that personal and cultural myths are strongly embedded in the survivor's psyche, how these myths have done violence to that psyche, and how to accommodate and heal the hurt born of this violence.



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