English 139

The Cultures of English: Writing Diaspora

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2010 Premnath, Gautam
Premnath, Gautam
MW 4-5:30 Note new room: 130 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Lovelace, E.: Salt; NourbeSe Philip, M.: Zong!; Dabydeen, D.: Turner: New and Selected Poems; Naipaul, V.: A House for Mr. Biswas; Naipaul, V.: An Area of Darkness; Ghosh, A.: Sea of Poppies; Coovadia, I.: The Wedding; Danticat, E.: The Dew Breaker; Collins, M.: Angel; Espinet, R.: The Swinging Bridge


This course will examine how literary art narrates the experience of diaspora and confronts its shaping histories of displacement, migration, and resettlement. We will read contemporary narratives addressing two prominent modern instances of diaspora experience, originating respectively in the forcible resettlement of African peoples in the Americas via the Atlantic slave trade; and the dispersal of Indian indentured laborers to plantation societies around the world in the wake of abolition. We’ll consider how works of literature bring to the surface stories and experiences often submerged or obscured by official histories, and trace the protean workings of memory in these narratives. And we’ll address the correlation between efforts to maintain and forge ties to ancestral culture and attempts to chart new cultural trajectories. The course will conclude by considering patterns of rivalry, hostility, solidarity, and cross-fertilization between African- and Indian-descended diasporic communities in the contemporary Caribbean.

Note: I have listed a probable booklist for the course; a finalized list will be announced on the first day of class. The texts by Lovelace, Naipaul (A House for Mr. Biswas), and Ghosh will definitely be required. The booklist will be supplemented by a substantial course packet.

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