Dredging Day and a trauma-informed reading of Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

  • Andrew Rahal

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis comprises a study on Layli Long Soldier’s poetry collection Whereas (Graywolf, 2017) within the field of contemporary American poetry (33,247 words excl. bibliography), a collection of original poems (64 pages excl. notes and frontmatter), and a bridging statement (5833 words).

The first chapter of the critical section examines Whereas in the context of the language used to build narratives of apology. The chapter offers close readings of poems in Whereas to reveal the instability of legal language and deconstruct the failures of apology. The second chapter considers the work of contemporary trauma theorists to examine specific representations of land and body that builds a language of territorialization in the collection. In this emphasized reading on land representations, I argue that territorial formation is an active part of a process of reclamation and inclusion in Whereas.

Chapter three considers the prominent role of poems of belonging and forgiveness in Whereas in order to better understand Long Soldier’s poetic response to shared traumatic narratives. I conceptualize forgiveness as a radical act of belonging and analyze specific poems in Whereas that work on interpersonal and intrapersonal levels that foster and problematize belonging. I argue that these poems of forgiveness Long Soldier presents a more powerful and more meaningful response to historical narratives.

While this critical inquiry does not map directly on the creative component, Dredging Day, there are clear thematic resonances. The exploration of our unstable and multi-directional relationships with land and language, and the personal experience of parenthood and family relationships in Dredging Day tie the critical and creative components together.
Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorNick Laird (Supervisor) & Philip McGowan (Supervisor)


  • Poetry
  • American studies
  • indigenous studies
  • contemporary poetry
  • trauma literature
  • resistance literature

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