|This thesis locates Palestinian poetry (in English translation) in the context of postcolonial literature, a perspective from which Arabic literature is not generally viewed. The valence of this perspective will be demonstrated by reading the poetry in the context of the confluence of three particular forces, namely: culture, conflict and commitment. This nexus of politico-historical forces is manifest in the tropes, themes and trajectories of modern Palestinian poetry from between the years 1948-1993. The thesis will demonstrate that Palestinian poetry exhibits many of the features of postcolonial literature; it will be argued therefore, that the poetry can be better understood and appreciated from this vantage point.
The introduction locates the study in the socio-cultural context, both Irish and Palestinian, briefly outlines the Arabic literary heritage from which Palestinian poetry emerges, and provides a synopsis of the politico-historical conditions associated with the chosen timeline. Drawing upon writers such as Edward Said and Franz Fanon, among others, it documents the role of culture as an important component of resistance and as a locus of identity and community cohesion for the Palestinian people.
Chapter I examines a selection of Palestinian poetry from the approximate period 1917 to 1948. This was a seminal period in Palestinian history, and attitudes to the Palestinian question externally. The chapter establishes the fact of discursive resistance to the partition of their country on the part of Palestinian poets, politicians and intellectuals of that period, and underscores the context of this resistance within Arab nationalism generally.
Chapter II examines the poetry from the period immediately after the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and the establishment of the new Israeli state. The tropes of refugee and return and the problematic of Palestinian identity, permeate the poetry of this period. These were not mere aesthetic developments or postures, but rather they were/are indices of historical facts on the ground, a confluence of culture (poetry) and the conflict (the 1948 war) which resulted in large-scale Palestinian expulsion and dispossession and obliteration of the vestiges of Palestinian existence, such as destruction of villages or the re-naming (in Hebrew) of villages, towns and rivers.
Chapter III begins with the so-called Six Day War of 1967 in which the combined Arab armies were defeated and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began. This was also a period during which Palestinian poets, male and female, were re-united across the land of Palestine and also the period in which the notion of ‘commitment’ to a literature of resistance was inspired by the Palestinian poets who had remained inside the new state of Israel after partition in 1948.
Chapter IV covers the period between the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 and the first Palestinian Intifadāh of 1987. As in previous chapters, this chapter continues to trace the trajectory of Palestinian poetry within the confluence of culture, conflict and commitment and the new range of tropes and images elicited by the nexus of forces impacting on Palestinian life and art.
Chapter V examines the poetry from the period of the intifadah, a further seminal period in the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations. By this time Palestinian poetry had developed an aesthetic sophistication of metaphor and structure in response to the fluctuations within the confluence of culture, conflict and commitment, forces, which this thesis will establish, reside at the core of Palestinian poetry to the present.