Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


This thesis explores Etel Adnan’s life writing In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country (2005). Adnan’s life writing is an example of testimonial discourse and a pursuit of social justice. Adnan’s pursuit of social justice takes the form of a dialogue – although tangled and complex – which through the production of dynamic, interactive testimony establishes a distinctive cosmopolitan consciousness and acts to challenge the boundaries, limits and possibilities of socio-political change. The thesis shows that this dialogue is enabled in the memoir through the use of a genre of life writing and the English language. It argues that Adnan’s work depicts and enacts a particular type of cosmopolitanism. In order to understand what type of cosmopolitan disposition Adnan creates and how it is enacted in her work, the thesis adopts a combination of functional linguistic and literary approaches. This methodology is used to investigate Adnan’s writing style in terms of the different aspects of meaning Adnan’s work generates and what themes these aspects construe.

Using Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics and Hasan’s model of symbolic articulation and literary criticism and life writing theories, the thesis focuses, in particular, on Adnan’s patterns of language in the final chapter of the memoir “To be in a Time of War”. This final chapter is a critique of the 2003 war against Iraq. The thesis shows that Adnan uses a novel way of approaching the theme of war and other major themes in the chapter. The thesis undergoes a close textual analysis using both methods in order to unpack Adnan’s multilayered practice of meaning-making. The textual analysis aims to describe how these patterns construe experiential, logical and interpersonal meanings and how these meanings are deployed in the analysed text across multiple systems in the grammar. Looking at transitivity choices of process types and participant roles which construe inner and outer experiences of the world; ergative choices which construe human and nonhuman agency and responsibility; interdependency choices which construe in/dependency of human and nonhuman entities; and mood and modality choices which construe interpersonal relations between social actors, together with observing a multitude of lexical choices, the thesis reveals how these choices are constructed in an unusual way, why they generate unsettling effects, and how they offer challenging tasks of interpretation for readers.

Through this revelation the thesis provides a deeper understanding of not only how Adnan’s construal is distinctive and challenging but also how it contributes to Adnan’s whole project of establishing a cosmopolitan stance in her life writing and highlights the role of the reader as an active creator of meaning. The thesis shows that Adnan’s manipulation of language resources gives readers the opportunity to participate in the act of writing itself. Thus readers are modelled as social actors and are prompted to share Adnan’s alternative ways of perceiving, framing and responding to heightened socio-political issues, which aim to foster socio-political agency and transformation. Thus, the analysis of Adnan’s layers of textual production undertaken by the present thesis demonstrates how Adnan engages in the symbolic articulation of her themes. It consolidates the idea that themes are not just stated explicitly in literature but are symbolically articulated on many levels through language features across multiple grammatical systems.

The significance of the present thesis lies in undertaking interdisciplinary research which explores the indeterminate boundaries of literary and linguistic disciplines and draws a bigger circle of connection between the two disciplines to achieve a deeper understanding of Adnan’s writing techniques. The thesis contributes to stylistic and literary studies, and calls for future researchers to consider SFL analytical approaches as enabling means for literature studies. It gives the general public profound insights into how a literary work such as Adnan’s enables a glocal engagement in non-violent ethics of resistance and peace activism.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.