Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3590-6369

Year of Publication

2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Kalliney

Second Advisor

Dr. Nazera Wright

Abstract

“But What Has Helga Crane to Do with the West Indies? Plantation Afterlives in the Black Atlantic” situates the emergence of the southern gothic in modernist American and Caribbean works as a response to the shifting cultural narrative of the plantation in the twentieth century. In this project, I argue that the plantation seeps out of its place and time to haunt landscapes it may never have touched and times in which slavery is long over. While the plantation system is broadly recognized as a literary, political, and cultural force in nineteenth-century literary studies, I conceive it is also a driving force of southern literature even after the physical plantations begin to fade.

In this project, I examine how literary portrayals of plantations flourish in the 1920s and 30s, from the writings of the Nashville Agrarians to the popularity of Gone with the Wind, arguing that this period represents a literary re-mythologizing of the plantation’s legacy as a benevolent and positive model for the south. A significant contribution of this dissertation is then in demonstrating how plantations are present in works that are not traditionally understood as plantation fiction, and that these works offer a resistance to this re-mythologizing through turning to the gothic: the transatlantic plantation gothic in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand and Jean Rhys’ Voyage in the Dark, the impact of environmental labor on the plantation gothic in Jean Toomer’s Cane and Eric Walrond’s Tropic Death, and finally, how plantation modernity affects portrayals of natural disasters in plantation territories in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!. Ultimately, this project contributes to the discussion of plantation modernity currently occurring in Southern Studies beyond the nineteenth century and into the modernist period, while also demonstrating how movements often construed as disparate in American literary studies, like the Harlem Renaissance and the Nashville Agrarians, were actually in close conversation.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2020.029

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