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Creative-critical Articles (inc hybrid and ficto-criticism)

Vol. 13 No. 1 (2021): Transnational Literature Special Edition: Follow the Sun

“Third Culture Kids”: Detachment, Adolescence, and Yann Martel’s Self

February 3, 2021


This interdisciplinary paper uses Third Culture studies (drawn from the social sciences) in tandem with literary analysis of Canadian/ Third Culture Yann Martel’s first novel Self (1996) to argue that Martel’s work exemplifies both the international freedoms of Third Culture individuals and the psychology of Third Culture itself, which is, as I suggest here, seemingly stuck in an adolescent phase of identity-formation. Third Culture tends to connote expatriate privilege, including the ability to cross borders at will with an ease other types of dislocated populations do not enjoy. Literary analysis allows me to reconsider Martel’s novel and fruitfully intervene in scholarship addressing the vexed internationalism expressed in it.  I also further the scholarship on Third Culture, especially as it engages with the interaction between rootlessness and privilege, and with the possibility that internationally disrupted adolescence renders national commitments permanently unstable.