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Feeling American: Caribbean Petitions for a New World Literary Ethos

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posted on 11.06.2014, 00:00 by Timothy A. Henningsen
This dissertation investigates the impact of American literature and culture upon the Anglophone Caribbean during and following the Second World War. Traditional inquiries involving this era usually render the Caribbean in colonial and/or post-colonial contexts; this dissertation instead looks to understand alternative variables, especially the widespread affiliations with U.S. culture made by emergent Caribbean writers from the so-called “Windrush Generation” that were exposed to American soldiers serving overseas. The American military presence on islands like Jamaica and Trinidad necessarily brought with it concomitant aspects of American culture; Caribbean communities were thereby introduced to American cinema, music, magazines, fashion, food, and lingo, all of which offered new tangents for individual self-expression throughout the region. Caribbean writers would subsequently take this cultural amalgamation to a more highbrow level by engaging with the likes of American writers, particularly the 19th century threesome of Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Herman Melville. Furthermore, as U.S. academic institutions promoted American literature as an identifiable national genre following the Allied victory, Caribbean writers like George Lamming, C. L. R. James, V. S. Naipaul, and Sylvia Wynter would witness this literary ascendency and speculate how their own national genre might be assembled. Not coincidentally, the American and Caribbean genres of literature both identify and employ vernacular writing, which, especially during the embryonic stages of the attendant literary criticism for both regions, allows writers and critics to tout the seeming distinctiveness of their literary craft, rendered in a unique idiom. Ultimately, this dissertation exposes the underexplored literary relationship between the United States and Caribbean, and argues for a shared rhetorical and literary ethos which emerges under the pretexts of nationalism during the so-called “American Moment.”

History

Advisor

Barnes, Natasha

Department

English

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

Doctoral

Committee Member

Cintrón, Ralph Cirillo, Nancy Holland, Sharon Messenger, Christian

Submitted date

2012-08

Language

en

Issue date

10/12/2012