Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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People we trust (a novel) and The enemy within: Fictionalising the Marcos regime (a critical study)

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posted on 2021-05-06, 22:51 authored by Monica Macansantos
This PhD thesis comprises two projects. The first is a novel, People We Trust, and the second is a critical study of two representative novels belonging to a genre that the critic Gerald T. Burns has called “Martial Law Literature”, or literature that creatively engages with the Marcos dictatorship.

I begin my critical study by discussing the tradition of resistance literature in the Philippines, tracing this back to Jose Rizal’s Spanish-language novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. I then discuss how the Filipino historical novel developed out of this tradition of resistance writing, and how most, if not all, Filipino novels depict moments in Philippine history in which Filipinos have risen against those who threatened their sovereignty as a people. After the Philippine nation gained its independence, Filipino novelists utilised the genre to take charge of the nation’s narrative, and to continuously engage with the question of national identity. The Martial Law novel occupies a particularly interesting place within this tradition, in that it grapples with the nation’s inability to liberate itself from a legacy of oppression left behind by its colonial rulers as shown in its selection of a repressive, totalitarian ruler from within the national community.
My discussion draws on two novels: Ninotchka Rosca’s State of War, and Gina Apostol’s Gun Dealer’s Daughter. They belong to opposite ends of an era in which Martial Law writing grew and developed: State of War having been published in 1988, two years after the Marcoses fled the Philippines, and Gun Dealer’s

Daughter having been published in 2012. Taken together, they chart what Gerald T. Burns, in his essay “Philippine Martial Law Fiction: Phases in the Early Evolution of the Genre”, calls an “evolution” in Martial Law fiction and its increasing ambivalence towards social commitment and nationalism. Both novels explore the fissures associated with the emergence of the oppressor from within. My analyses correspond with my own novel’s examination of how certain individuals, or societies, are more than willing to relinquish their individual freedoms in favour of what Erich Fromm would call an “escape from freedom”.

The critical component of my thesis engages with postcolonial theory in addition to studies on Martial Law writing, the Philippine historical novel, and Philippine postcoloniality.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains All Rights

Degree Discipline

Creative Writing

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

International Institute of Modern Letters


Wilkins, Damien; Walls, Kathryn