Date of Award

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Committee Member

Dr. Angela Naimou, Co-Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Walt Hunter, Co-Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Michael LeMahieu, Committee Member

Abstract

This paper argues that focusing on seascapes in Danticat’s fiction unsettles former land-sea relations and, in turn, generates fluid conceptual alternatives to rigid colonial histories, hierarchies, and temporal scales. Investigating how the water in Danticat’s fiction upends cultural narratives of colonial progress and modernization’s processes also yields considerations of how Danticat’s novels entail a widening of the customary aperture of ecocritcism. Thinking about Danticat’s fiction environmentally raises the stakes for how we may think about the links between “the local” and contexts of planetary reach on an “ecoglobal” scale. Foregrounding these concerns when reading Danticat’s work bears directly on contemporary pairings between literary studies and the environmental humanities. An attention to Danticat’s seascapes thus enriches ecocritical approaches to not only Danticat’s fiction, but also offers a narrative point of intersection in which two previously divergent schools of thought may be paired. Braiding postcolonial perspectives with ecocritical critiques outlines how literature’s imaginative capacities can galvanize forces for not just social, but also global environmental change. Thus, this paper, in coalescing an analysis of the ubiquity of water in Danticat’s work with questions of how the narrative itself takes up tidal patterns of circulation, is primarily concerned with how the forms of Danticat’s fiction articulate and circulate reflections on empire, American foreign policy, what Rob Nixon terms “slow violence,” and methods of resistance. I contend here that Danticat’s aesthetic strategy mediates socioenviornmental transformation through the trope of water. Water, this essay claims, as both a natural resource and source of history, offers us innovative ways of thinking about how it can initiate possibilities for prompting socioenvironmental change—and reflects what is at stake if we don’t.

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