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Reading the West Indies: Empire, Slavery, and the Rise of the Novel Open Access

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This dissertation contends that the historic events of the eighteenth-century Caribbean directly shaped the rise of the novel. The first chapter considers the conflicting cultural representations of the eighteenth-century pirate in the burgeoning genre of the maritime picaresque. The second chapter considers the role of mixed-race women in the Bildungsroman, what would later be categorized as domestic fiction due to the gendered politics eighteenth-century long-prose writing. The third chapter examines the rhetorical value of silence in autobiographical slave narratives, a genre of writing foundational to the African-American literary canon. The fourth and final chapter posits that the Caribbean gothic, formulated during the height of the slave trade debates, was influenced by slavery apologist anxiety over slave rebellion in the Atlantic. Each chapter is dependent upon postcolonial and empire studies and is grounded in primary source material spanning from 1690-1840. In providing a more globalized vision of the novel’s, my dissertation offers a unique perspective on the long eighteenth century and the literary history to follow.

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