Fall 2017

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work



Dr. Todd Lawrence, Dr. Chris Santiago, Dr. Matthew Batt


The “Human Rights Novel” is a popular genre with great possibilities for exposing readers to issues in the lives of post-colonial subjects around the globe. However, Human Rights fiction often relies on rhetorical strategies to suggest truth which blurs the lines between fictional and non-fictional genres. The implied truth of the narrative makes readers feel that they are transported across the globe and participating in a form of “touristic reading” that satisfies their interests in human rights issues. This is a problematic schema that fails to challenge beliefs, and instead produces readers who choose literature that is familiar, predictable, and often written by the Western authors who usually lack first-hand knowledge. These issues will be explored through the human rights novels What is the What by Dave Eggers, and Animals People, by Indra Sinha. Both texts suggest credibility and legitimacy through four literary features: an imitative form of ethnography, appropriation of a human rights victims’ voice, a reliance on familiar colonial scripts, and the creation of an icon to represent an entire class of people. This blurring of genres and fictionalizing of human rights issues becomes problematic when it confuses readers into believing that “touristic reading” accurately represents the lives of people around the world and might prevent them from making a difference.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.