Washed by the Gulf Stream: The historic and geographic relation of Irish and Caribbean literature

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Zack Bowen - Committee Chair


This project examines the historic and geographic relation between Irish and Caribbean literature. It takes the definition of the Caribbean as a "meta-archipelago" from Antonio Benitez-Rojo and links this extensive and diverse length of islands with a seemingly monolithic culture at the opposite edge of the North Atlantic. The first chapter examines the historic contexts of the Irish in the Caribbean. The second chapter concerns Irish Big House novels and Caribbean Plantation novels such as Somerville and Ross' The Big House of Inver and Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea. These texts reveal lapses in historic memory and a geographic identification with the feminine, i.e. the colonizer's (as male) forced insemination of Ireland and the Caribbean (as symbolic feminine space). The third chapter finds that both Joyce and Walcott embrace what Edouard Glissant terms "errantry," the temptation to go "against the root." Specifically, Joyce and Walcott chart movements in a multiplicity of directions. They do not write directly against colonialism or empire but instead chart labyrinthine courses within their works symbolic of the complex positioning of colonial subjects. The use of the sea as metaphor in both Ulysses and Omeros becomes a striking realization of this errantry. Finally, the last chapter suggests that recent memoirs from both island cultures join ideas of nation with diseased bodies.


Literature, Comparative; Literature, Caribbean; Literature, English

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