Document Type

Honors Project


This thesis defines and problematizes the emerging Anglo-American literary genre of the humanitarian narrative. It interrogates its characteristics, origins, and significance. It first defines the genre, noting its primary conventions, which include an exceptional Hero, exotic setting, and an autobiographical or laudatory-biographical narrative approach. The thesis then argues that its emergence flows from converging Anglo-American literary and political histories and traditions that extol (Western) Heroes, human rights, and Western humanitarian intervention in the Global South. Three extended close readings follow, illuminating and critiquing the genre’s features: Little Princes by Conor Grennan (2014); Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (2006); and Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (2003). The final section argues that the humanitarian narrative is problematic because it reinforces modern humanitarianism uncritically and is underpinned by the harmful power relationships of colonialism.



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