English R1B

Reading and Composition: Caribbean Poetry In and Out of English

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Spring 2021 Dunsker, Leo
MWF 1-2

Book List

Brathwaite, Kamau: Black + Blues; Césaire, Aimé: Notebook of a Return to the Native Land; Philp, M. NourbeSe: Zong!; Walcott, Derek: Omeros

Other Readings and Media

Because much of the work we'll be reading is either out-of-print or will be read only in parts, there will be plenty of material provided in PDF form.


In this course, we will be reading the work of a wide range of Caribbean poets. Most of the poetry will have been written in English, some of it translated from French or Spanish; some of it in "correct" English, but much of it written in local dialect. Some of these poets understand their work as primarily spoken or oral, in line with a sense of heritage that roots itself across an ocean; others insist that poetry, in the 20th century, should be understood as existing chiefly on the page, as most literature from Europe or the U.S. is. The possibility of an oral poetics and the value of non-standard Englishes will certainly concern us here, but so will the history of the region itself as it is negotiated through the poetry. Can a region where heterogeneity (of linguistic inheritance, or ethnic background) really be considered as one? Or is this in fact the very basis for understanding a region as itself something more than merely geographical? Theorizations of identity -- whether Caribbean theorizations of identity, or theories of Caribbean identity -- such as négritudeantillanité, and creolité, along with philosophical concepts like "tidalectics" or "the right to opacity" devised by the poets and thinkers represented here, will play an important part in our consideration of these and other questions.

In addition to the books listed above, we'll also be examining the more canonical poetry of Claude McKay, Nicolás Guillén, Louise Bennett, Martin Carter, Eric Roach, and others; the written and recorded work of dub poets like Mikey Smith, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and Jean "Binta" Breeze; and the work across media of many other writers still living and working today, including Grace Nichols, Lorna Goodison, David Dabydeen, Dionne Brand, and Kei Miller.

This writing-intensive course is designed to improve students’ skills in both writing and thinking. Over the course of the semester, students will write and revise two papers, the first analytic and the second based on individual research. Accordingly, students will be instructed in how to locate and engage with primary and secondary sources as well as in how to properly employ them so as to advance their own original claims.


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