Toxic Narratives: the Role of Poisoning in Contemporary Caribbean Novels

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2024

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Abstract

This dissertation explores the concept of toxicity through the lens of literature. It takes the Plantationocene on the Hispanophone, Francophone, and Creolophone Caribbean experiences as the starting point to understand how the period and location circumstances affect the narratives we create around biological exposure to toxins and ideas of immunity and biological harm. Through the analysis of six contemporary novels, drawing from health humanities, biopolitics, and ecocriticism, it offers an understanding of what toxicity entails in contemporary imaginaries of the Caribbean and what kind of narratives are born from the need to make sense of an existence surrounded by discourse about climate collapse, pandemics, and extinction. The three chapters delve into intoxication in sacred spaces, the visual politics of infection using the zombie trope, and the role of storytelling in the transmission of abstract and material toxicity. They show how authors of this era offer alternative narratives of human existence in our current context that stray away from conservationist and purist ideas of ecology and planetary balance. The study aims to enhance our understanding of the centrality of toxicity in the Plantationocene context as well as the counterplantation practices that arise as alternatives for survival, contributing valuable insights into our post-pandemic world.

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Vargas, Laura (2024). Toxic Narratives: the Role of Poisoning in Contemporary Caribbean Novels. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/30942.

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