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Presentation Title

The Instinctual Self: An Analysis of Identity in Michael Ondaatje's English Patient

Student Presenter(s) and Advisor

Briana Shemroske, Lake Forest CollegeFollow

Location

Young 111

Abstract

This paper explores Canadian author Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient, a story of four characters and their attempts to return to normalcy in the aftermath of World War II. My paper argues that the conscious efforts made by each character to reconstruct his/her identity are ineffective and result only in diversion, displacement, and further fragmentation. It is inevitably the subconscious—through acts of memory, instinct, and reverie—that triggers the re-solidification of each character's identity. In arguing this, I aim to demonstrate Ondaatje's belief that the true self— even when submerged by trauma—is an entity as organic as it is resilient.

Presentation Type

Individual Presentation

Start Date

4-8-2014 2:40 PM

End Date

4-8-2014 4:00 PM

Panel

Panel: The War of the Soul: Adrienne Rich and Michael Ondaatje

Field of Study for Presentation

English

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Apr 8th, 2:40 PM Apr 8th, 4:00 PM

The Instinctual Self: An Analysis of Identity in Michael Ondaatje's English Patient

Young 111

This paper explores Canadian author Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient, a story of four characters and their attempts to return to normalcy in the aftermath of World War II. My paper argues that the conscious efforts made by each character to reconstruct his/her identity are ineffective and result only in diversion, displacement, and further fragmentation. It is inevitably the subconscious—through acts of memory, instinct, and reverie—that triggers the re-solidification of each character's identity. In arguing this, I aim to demonstrate Ondaatje's belief that the true self— even when submerged by trauma—is an entity as organic as it is resilient.