Graduation Year

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Laura Runge, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pat Rogers, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Regina Hewitt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Patrick Finelli, Ph.D.

Keywords

hospitality, Caribbean, Creole, identity

Abstract

British expansion to the West Indies in the eighteenth-century resulted in vast economic growth for the British Empire and a rise in literature set in the region. Examining the literature allows for an in-depth exploration of how the Caribbean has become associated as a place of relaxation and escape though its early history of colonialism is fraught with violence. My study builds on the understanding of the Caribbean region in the eighteenth-century and utilizes hospitality theory to articulate the role that cultural exchange and physical setting play in the texts and in the formation of national identity, both in the West Indies and in England.

Using hospitality theory to explore how power shifts between the guest/host/witness, I explore the influence of literature on eighteenth-century perceptions of this region through an examination of the patterns that develop through prose fiction, drama, and poetry. Section one includes Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko (1696), Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and William Pittis’ The Jamaica Lady (1720). I argue that Behn’s work establishes narrative patterns that uncover what eighteenth-century travelers imagined in the West Indies—the host welcomes the outsider, the land serves as witness, and the arrival of the guest initiates a realignment of the British subjectivity—and show how these patterns reappear in the later works of Defoe and Pittis. In the section two, I show that the theatre creates a shift in these categories as a direct result of space, performance, and shared experience through my readings of Thomas Southerne’s Oroonoko (1696), Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian (1771), and John Gay’s Polly (1728). The final section focuses on the poetry of James Grainger, Nathaniel Weekes, and Francis Williams, revealing the tropes that emerged and demonstrating how the Caribbean land is visualized as a welcoming space. I argue that these genres work together to generate images of the tropics in the eighteenth-century British mindset and provide a foundation for the way we have come to imagine this region today.

Available for download on Thursday, December 14, 2017

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