This essay begins by observing that the Indian and Atlantic Ocean worlds were deeply linked in eighteenth-century British literature and colonial discourse—so deeply, in fact, that they shared a common name: “the Indies.” Theorizing outward from this case study, this essay advocates a historicist approach to Oceanic Studies. Given that the shape of the world system has proved remarkably malleable over time, it argues that we need to pay more attention to the periodic reorganizations of oceanic space that have occurred over the course of the longue durée. More specifically, this essay suggests that literary scholars should attend to the ideological formations, or metageographies, that have been produced by—and in some cases helped to engender—these systemic shifts in the organization of global space. Finally, it argues that so doing will require adopting new methodologies around spatial scale.

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