Signifying (Non)Linguistic and Subliminal Spirituality: Caryl Phillips's <i>Crossing the River</i> (1993).


  • Tomeiko Ashford Carter University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


postcolonialism, slavery, western settlement in the US


In "West," the second narrative of his 1993 novel, Crossing the River, author Caryl Phillips showcases the life story of Martha, a former slave. In doing so, Phillips privileges Martha’s recounting of her own trials. At times, Martha's idiom seems to demonstrate an interspersed, omniscient perspective, and she shares in the production of the text. What results is the viability of Martha's spirit: Phillips uses her suffering to demonstrate her resilience. The author engages intermediary verbal and non-verbal cues that enter Martha (and that project the narrative) into various states of (divine) consciousness. This style shows that Martha operates from a very sophisticated and individualized system of signs.

Author Biography

Tomeiko Ashford Carter, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tomeiko Ashford Carter most recently served as AdjunctProfessor of English at Durham Technical College and Visiting Scholar,Institute for the Arts and Humanities, at the University of North Carolina atChapel Hill. She is the author of PowersDivine, a treatise that connects nineteenth-century spiritual autobiographyand contemporary spiritual fiction. Her latest book, Virginia Broughton: The Life and Writings of a National BaptistMissionary, offers biographical insight into the events and work thatshaped a turn-of-the-century religious activist. Carter’s articles haveappeared in African American Review, Review of Black Political Economy, MELUS, and The College Language Association Journal.