Date of Award


Access Control

Campus-Only Access

Degree Name

English, M.A.


English Department


Karen Sands-O'Connor, PhD, Professor of English

Department Home page

First Reader

Barish Ali, PhD, Assistant Professor of English

Second Reader

Lorna Perez, Acting Department Chair


Confining Country, Confining City:

Real and Imaginary Places in the Work of Sam Selvon

Throughout the history of the Caribbean there has been a hegemonic divide between colonized and colonizer. The colonizer exerts power over its subjects by controlling history, often through literature. Colonized subjects were not taught their own histories; they did not have their own literature to represent them. Samuel Dickson Selvon was born in Trinidad while the country was still under British rule and, with his writing, gave a voice to the descendants of indentured servants and slaves alike; a voice that, at the time of his writing, was represented far too infrequently. Selvon captures the worlds that he lived in – both the colony and metropole – with documentary-like accuracy; as such, place becomes a measuring tool that I believe can be used to further the study of the post-colonial relationship between colonized and colonizer.

By looking at Selvon’s work through the ideas of cultural critic Raymond Williams, specifically his The Country and the City, parallels and comparisons can be drawn between the country and the city that uncover many facts about modern culture. All of Selvon’s works take place either primarily in Trinidad or primarily in London. I am interested in the way that Selvon operated when writing about Trinidad and London: specifically, when writing stories set mainly in Trinidad how does Selvon represent his home country and how does he signify London? Conversely, when writing about characters living in London, how does Selvon represent the metropole and how does he signify the Caribbean? A disconnect exists between these two places in Selvon’s life. I believe that Selvon recognized the cultural rift between these places and wrote to close the gap.

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