Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Thomas Jackson Rice


In this paper I argue that the political situation between Britons and Saxons within Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant further articulates Ishiguro’s ongoing critique of Western humanism’s logic of labelling the Other. I also argue for a definition of the figure of the buried giant broadly speaking as the Other par excellence, as an entity of pure alterity, and as a Lèvinasian “infinite other.” As The Buried Giant demonstrates, Ishiguro continues to write against the politics of humanism that have flourished in Western art, science, and political philosophy since the Enlightenment. Though Ishiguro sets The Buried Giant loosely in the medieval period, the Saxon warrior and prototerrorist Wistan exposes readers to many of contemporary humanism’s hypocritical contradictions. These contradictions include the violence done by labels such as “civil” and “savage,” and the arrogance of superimposing “civilized” and refined “culture” onto nature. In The Buried Giant, Ishiguro portrays how many of the origins for humanism— particularly its privileging of rationality—can be traced back into the medieval period by examining the unsettling process of how the imperialist Britons define “human being.” What Ishiguro ultimately exposes however in both Britons and Saxons is their shared terror of the irrationality of death. I end my paper arguing that Ishiguro’s oeuvre can best be read and understood within an emerging cultural post-humanist tradition.


© 2016, Alexander J. Steele