Michael Grafals, Introduction to LIT 4192 (Summer 2018): Caribbean Literature Online

Michael Grafals, Introduction to LIT 4192 (Summer 2018): Caribbean Literature Online


Hello! I’m Dr. Michael Grafals and welcome to Literature
4192. Major Caribbean Writers: History, Memory and
the Re-Discovery of Caribbean Space. So I hope you all introduce yourselves on
the module page and that you’ve read the syllabus and that you’ve answered that secret, hidden
Easter Egg in the syllabus and that you’ve emailed me whatever that secret messaged asked
for. So, just to give a thematic overview of what
we’ll be looking at. In this course we’ll be looking at writers
who create protagonists who go on journeys to give shape and to re-discover and give
a new awareness to their Caribbean identities. Like the book chapter we’ll be reading this
week by Katherine McKittrick, I’m also interested in how Caribbean writers transform the sense
of alienation and dispossession they feel about their space and about their history
into a new affirmation of space, a new affirmation of what it means to be Caribbean and what
it means to be connected to the Caribbean as a region. In order to develop this sense of identity
these writers have to go through the violence of Caribbean history. Now, the Caribbean has a long history of colonization. It was in fact the first space in the New
World that was colonized by the Europeans when Christopher Columbus “discovered” the
New World in 1492. The first island he landed on was the Bahamas. This colonization virtually exterminated the
native population of the Caribbean. And then after that there was this mass dislocation,
this mass transportation of enslaved Africans into the New World to harvest sugar. It was one of the main cash crops in the 18th
and 19th century New World economy. So, when we look at this history of displacement
we realize that thematically the Caribbean is about diaspora. Diaspora refers to the mass movement of peoples
away from their homelands. We could also say that diaspora is about the
struggle to create a new sense of meaning outside of one’s origins. So virtually everyone in the Caribbean is
from somewhere else and has been part of a diaspora. This theme is very important. Unlike much of U.S. American literature, there’s
this need, there’s this urgency to be connected to one’s origins. There’s a need to feel connected to someplace
other than the island that these writers and characters inhabit. So underwriting these writers concern about
space is this history of cultural dispossession. They respond to this dispossession by seeking
out in Caribbean space a new sense of purpose, a new sense of history despite the long violence
of history. This week we start with the film Sugar Cane
Alley directed by Euzhan Palcy in 1983 (the original title is La Rue Cases-Nègres) and
this film is about growing up in a sugar plantation in the 1930’s. This film is meant to provide a historical
background to our next text next week Notebook of a Return to the Native Land by Aimé Césaire. So, when you watch this film I want you to
consider Euzhan Palcy’s representation of French-Caribbean society. I also want you to notice José’s connection
to Africa and his African past. Finally, the film is based on originally on
a novel by the same [French] name by Joseph Zobel’s and that novel like the film is a
bildungsroman, it’s a story of coming-of-age, a story of a coming-to-consciousness, so I
want you to notice how the film represents that coming-to-consciousness in its narrative
because our next text is also a text about a Caribbean coming-to-consciousness. So I want you to be aware of those ideas when
you watch the film. Then you’re reading the chapter by Katherine
McKittrick. This chapter will provide the theoretical
and intellectual foundations that we’ll be using to talk about all the readings in our
course. So read that very carefully. Please take notes of the ideas that McKittrick
uses because you’ll be using that especially for your first essay on Aimé Césaire, where
you’ll be using ideas from McKittrick’s Demonic Grounds. This week on Friday your first discussion
post is due. It’s a post that’s on the film and on your
impressions of Katherine McKittrick’s chapter. Then I’ll be responding to your post and if
I want clarification, if I want a deeper response I’ll be asking you for that, so please respond
to that if you’re giving that opportunity to clarify something: that’s all part of the
grade. And then on Saturday you’re responding to
a fellow classmates post so that we create a longer discussion thread. So, let me talk about the texts you’ll be
needing for this course. Next week we’ll be reading the poem by Aimé
Césaire Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, which is in the bookstore. The week after that we’re reading the foundational
Cuban novel The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier, which is also in the bookstore. Then we read Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for
the Widow, also in the bookstore. But the last novel we’ll read is actually
not in the bookstore, so perhaps you need to go on Amazon and purchase it but please
have this by that second-to-last week of class (you’ll need to have this read). And those are the texts you’ll need for this
course and for the rest we’ll be watching films that supplement the readings. And that’s it for now so if you have any questions
please email me and just note that this week we have to watch the film Sugar Cane Alley,
you have to read that chapter from McKittrick’s Demonic Grounds, and then do those two components
(those two or three components) of the discussion posts and then you’ll be good. I’m really looking forward to hearing how
you introduce yourselves. I’m looking forward to reading your responses
to these texts and expect another video on the film later on in the week. I’ll be doing another video, so looking forward
to hearing from you. We’re going to have a great time and am so
excited for this. I’ll see you soon. Bye!

local_offerevent_note October 12, 2019

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