Graduation Year

2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Rita Ciresi, M.F.A.

Keywords

Slavery, Plantation, Antebellum, Florida, Nineteenth century

Abstract

This thesis consists of the two opening chapters of American Odyssey, a nouveau plantation novel that has its roots in two American fiction traditions---the nineteenth-century plantation novel and the twentieth-century neo-slave narrative. It is 1855 and Charles DeCoeur's only motivation to remain Riverwood's owner and master is that his widowed mother and sickly sister rely on the profits of the estate. Charles chafes under the responsibility and physicality of plantation life, unable to reconcile himself to the role of master of a cotton estate in the forgotten heart of East Florida. Then a female Negro, Hellcat, wanders onto the Riverwood estate. Attracted to the woman's unusual appearance and disposition, Charles readily claims her as his property. It is not long before Charles channels his ennui into a renewed interest in Riverwood's workings, a thinly-veiled attempt to hide his growing obsession with the mysterious slave woman. However, tensions are mounting all around Charles. The estate is approaching bankruptcy, the overseer and slaves believe Hellcat has dark intentions, and Charles' mother believes the slave is a bastard child from her husband's scandalous past. But Charles refuses to listen to those around him and continues to let his desires guide his actions, while Hellcat's presence at Riverwood opens new wounds that threaten everyone around her.

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