Inscrutable Islands: Narrative Difficulty and the Rhetoric of Creolization in Twentieth-Century Caribbean Novels

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Comparative Literature


English (en)

Date of Award

Summer 9-1-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

J. Dillon Brown


Anglophone and Francophone theories of creolization make claims for Caribbean cultural identity; however these theories primarily concern themselves with operations of perception between and among different cultures, language speakers, races, and classes of people. This perception occurs at the meeting point of social differences, and the theorists employ a rhetoric of metaphor and figurative language to describe it as obscured or otherwise inhibited. Ultimately, this mode of perception is homologous with the interaction between a difficult literary text and its readers. This mode becomes instantiated in literary forms such as embedded and framing narratives, temporal gaps, and indeterminate narrators. Theorists of creolization claim that obscured perception enacts a form of cultural and political resistance. However, in the novels of Patrick Chamoiseau, Erna Brodber, Jean Rhys, Maryse Condé, Édouard Glissant, and Wilson Harris, difficult narrative forms can instead entrench social divisions and hierarchies.


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