Publication Date

2014-07-18

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2016-07-17

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2014-05-14

First Committee Member

Timothy P. Watson

Second Committee Member

Frank A. Palmeri

Third Committee Member

John R. Funchion

Fourth Committee Member

Evelyn O'Callaghan

Abstract

This study of nineteenth-century American, British, and Caribbean texts examines the historical and geographical shifts in literary depictions of West Indian Creoles, who were the offspring of colonizers and/or slaves in the Americas, and focuses on the relationship between literature and Creole identity formation. The presence of Creoles in literature demonstrates, on the one hand, the development of a Creole consciousness in texts by West Indian authors written from a Creole point of view. On the other hand, literary Creoles in British and post-Independence American novels attest to the importance of the West Indies within the Atlantic world, although Creoles are often depicted as outsiders. Canonical novels, in which Creole characters appear, also uncover some of the contradictions inherent in stereotypical depictions of West Indian Creoles. These contradictions are the focus of my study. In my reading of American and British novels—whose Creole characters often exemplify literary typecasts associated to the West Indies, rather than real Creoles—I read against the grain to identify ambiguities that open a space, often non-verbal, where the Creole can be re-configured. Although the figure of the West Indian Creole varies according to race, gender, and specific historical, economic and political realities linked to the location where a novel is set and/or produced, “Shape-Shifting Creole Identities” makes connections between diverse literary texts, endeavoring to trace the emergence of a Creole consciousness and analyzing shape-shifting Creole figures who can cross borders and re-define themselves alongside, within, and/or in opposition to stereotypical representations of Creoles.

Keywords

West Indian Creole characters; Nineteenth-Century British, American, and Caribbean novels; Transatlantic Literature and Identity Formation; Slavery and Emancipation Debate; Race and Gender; American and Haitian Revolutions

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