Maria-Irina Popescu

University of Essex

Project Title: The Homegrown Terrorist: Perspectives on Contemporary Myths in American Literature

Through this project, I seek to demonstrate that domestic terrorist characters in contemporary American novels are a product of the American myth and its illusions of agency and exceptionalism. By means of employing an interdisciplinary approach and building upon recent scholarship in fields such as political science, economics, sociology, and psychology, as well as hybrid disciplines such as gender and cultural studies, I will contribute to the dialogue on terrorist characters in recent fiction.

Recent texts such as Amy Waldman’s The Submission (2010) and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout (2015) will be analysed in the wider context of 1990s and 2000s outstanding novels (amongst which Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, 2007, and Anthony Grooms’ Bombingham, 2001), with cultural roots which will be traced back to the myth of the ‘revolutionary ‘60s.’

By combining theories of the American myth, fragments of non-fictional texts and interdisciplinary elements, I aim to sketch profiles of terrorist characters and uncover what leads them to extreme political action in contemporary American novels.

Supervised by Dr Owen Robinson.


About me


Maria-Irina Popescu is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Essex, UK. Popescu holds a joint BA degree in Literature and Art History and a MA degree in Literature, both from the University of Essex, UK. Her thesis examines the portrayal of domestic terrorists in contemporary American novels with a focus on the 2010s.

Academic affiliations:     Member of BAAS (British Association for American Studies)

Awards and funding:    
AHRC CHASE PhD Studentship, 2015
The University of Essex Scholarship, 2012 The Art History Prize (most outstanding graduating student), 2012 The Ede and Ravenscroft Prize 2010, 2011

BA in Literature and Art History, First Class (University of Essex, UK) MA in Literature, Distinction (University of Essex, UK)

Research Interests

Maria-Irina Popescu's research interests include, but are not limited to, the American Myth, contemporary American literature, comparative and interdisciplinary literature, terrorism studies, and Southern studies.