In political science and international relations the Caribbean is often referred to as 'America's backyard' - a disparaging definition which arrogantly conflates the United States with the entire continent and insists on the fact that the United States 'own' the Caribbean. On the other hand, the St Lucia born Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott describes the United States as an 'aggressive democracy' and a 'dictatorship of mediocrity' where 'all are forced to be equal'. One of the characters of Haitian origin who are featured in the work of the African-Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, describes the experience of finally obtaining a passport and North American citizenship as 'standing in a firing line and finally getting a bulletproof vest'. This module aims at looking at the ways in which writers from the United States imagine and represent the Caribbean and/or how writers from the Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora imagine and represent the United States. Students will be able to deepen their knowledge of American literature by becoming acquainted with major poetic, fictional, non-fictional and dramatic works which will be put in dialogue with one another in order to delineate the broader context in which these texts can be better understood. A close reading of primary texts will be at the centre of our method as we will investigate crucial issues such as the difference between reality and the 'American Dream', what it means to be from the Americas, nationalism and transnationalism, the function of memory and imagination, migration and the formation of identity, the diasporic nature of blackness in the United States, and the question of language.
Aims, objectives, and outcomes
This module aims to foster students' critical thinking by inviting them to investigate American literatures from a broader perspective. It will enable students to become acquainted with the vibrant and diverse literature originating from the specific context of U.S.-Caribbean relations and to rethink the 'American' paradigm from a broader perspective. After completion of the module students should be able to display a detailed knowledge of major twenty- and twenty-first- century texts about and/or from the United States and the Caribbean.
One essay (4000 words) 80%
Online Portfolio (online discussion forums, reading, oral presentations) 15%
- Module Supervisor: Maria Cristina Fumagalli