Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 202 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Marjorie Pryse

Committee Members

Eric Keenaghan, Jennifer Greiman


Literature and transnationalism, American literature, Racism in literature

Subject Categories

American Literature


Caribbean Hauntings and Transnational Regionalism in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century American Literature offers a new literary map of U.S. history that is routed through the Caribbean and that intervenes in certain historiographic problems that exceptionalism creates for national literary studies. In the literature of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Martin R. Delany, Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison, I tease out references to the Caribbean that other critics have overlooked as a result of strictly national frames of analysis. These references evidence that each text is haunted by a Caribbean presence, a phrase that signifies both a "real" Caribbean, a political and territorial place, and a spectral Caribbean, figures in the narrative (i.e., tropes, discourses, or signs) that demarcate space for events or persons that national history has suppressed. Each chapter explores how this haunting gives shape to a transnational region, which I theorize to be a non-national historical space that these writers construct in response to actual and epistemological racial violences in the nation's historiographic process that have manipulated representations of Plantation America. The transnational region is significant in that it reveals how the U.S. perpetuates the racial asymmetries of plantation order through its imperial and neo-colonial presence throughout the Americas during the Reconstruction through Cold War eras. As a lingering literary space, the transnational region acts as a ghostly vantage point for re-viewing the historical trajectory of slavery, disenfranchisement, and imperialism. The haunting nature of this Caribbeanized space in representations of U.S. geography and ideology shifts the reader's interpretive focus; as the literature eschews a history gleaned from empirical evidence in favor of a history of haunting traces, it alters the reader's sense of the historical periods during which these writers were working. Therefore, rather than try to recover what history has failed to record, I theorize that American literary studies can re-configure knowledge about race in the Americas by historicizing through the loss--the ghost--itself. The ghost, while elusive, offers a literary counter-history of the nation's repressed dependency on its Caribbean past and thus unsettles the exceptionalist and hegemonic histories that lend nationalism its power.