The experience of places in Derek Walcott's The Prodigal
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This thesis examines the experience of places in Derek Walcott’s poem The Prodigal. The speaker of the poem journeys through physical and mental landscapes in the United States, Europe, South America, and in the Caribbean. The purpose of the thesis is to explore the representations of the places mentioned in the poem and the meanings associated with them. The thesis consists of an introduction, two core chapters and a conclusion. The introduction presents the aims and research questions of the thesis, and provides a short biography of the author, an overview of previous research on Walcott’s work, and the cultural context of his writings. The first core chapter establishes the theoretical framework of the thesis by examining the different ways of experiencing places. The experience of places can be manifested in many ways and its significance is connected to an individual’s identity and feelings of belonging. As the meaning of places may change throughout an individual’s life, the temporal element of place emerges as important. In addition to real places, the significance of mythical geographies is examined. The second core chapter applies the concepts and tools presented in the theoretical chapter in a critical reading of The Prodigal. Through close reading, this thesis examines the relationship between the speaker and the places mentioned in the poem. Using the speaker’s description of physical places in the present and in the past, as well as his descriptions of mythical geographies, the different ways of experiencing places are identified and the significance of the experiences are explored in the second part of the thesis. The conclusion presents a summary of the findings.
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