ENG 266: Women's Literature (Caribbean Women Writers)

Women’s Literature: Caribbean Women Writers
English 266 / Spring 2013 / Dr. Comorau
MWF 10:00-10:50 / Sturges 005
nacomora@owu.edu / Sturges 304/ x3580
Office hours M 3-4, W 3-4:30 and by appointment

No introduction can adequately capture the complexities of the Caribbean, or the women who write from and about it. The region, comprised of over 25 different territories, has overlapping, and sometimes competing, relationships with Europe, Africa, Asia, and both North and South America. As we explore poetry and prose by Caribbean women, we will consider how the complexities of the Caribbean’s history bear on its present, the ways in which Caribbean women writers imagine their roles as writers and women, how these writers negotiate their relationships to the canons of Caribbean and English literatures, and how these texts represent and rewrite the historical and present realities of slavery, colonization, independence, and nationalism.

Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies (Dominican Republic)
Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven (Jamaica)
Lady in a Boat, Merle Collins (Grenada)
Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of the Bones (Haiti)
Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John (Antigua)
Shani Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night (Trinidad)
Grace Nichols, The Fat Black Lady’s Poems (Guyana)
Elizabeth Nunez, Prospero’s Daughter (Trinidad)
Patricia Powell, The Pagoda (Jamaica)
Various handouts available via Blackboard 

Class schedule:
In order to be prepared for class you need to have completed the reading(s) listed for each day and show up with paper copies.

1/14   Course Introduction
1/16   Prospero’s Daughter, pp. 1-33; Act I, The Tempest (linked on Blackboard)
1/18   Prospero, pp. 34-89; “Could Shakespeare Have Known?”

1/21   Prospero, pp. 89-157
1/23   Prospero, pp. 145-182; “Prospero’s Language, Caliban’s Voice”
1/25   Prospero, pp. 183-255

1/28   Prospero, 255 -313
1/30   Cereus Blooms at Night, pp. 1-48; “Managing the Unmanageable.”
2/1     Cereus, pp. 48-102

2/4     Cereus, pp. 105-152; “Dangerous Liaison”
2/6     Cereus, pp. 152-188
2/8     Cereus, pp. 191-249; “Trauma and Paradise: Willful and Strategic ignorance in Cereus Blooms at Night

2/11   The Fat Black Woman’s Poems, pp. 1-20
**Short Paper One due Tuesday, 12 February at 5pm via email**
2/13   Fat Black Woman, pp. 21-36; “The Battle with Language”                      
2/15   Fat Black Woman, pp. 39-64; “The Body as History”

2/18   Annie John, pp. 3-71 (Ch. 1-4); “The Absence of Writing”
2/20   Annie John, pp. 54-129 (Ch. 5-7)
2/22   Annie John, pp. 130-148 (Ch.8); “Obvious and Ordinary”

2/25   Lady in a Boat, pp. 1-25; “Orality and Writing”
2/27   Lady in a Boat, pp. 26-56
3/1     Lady in a Boat, pp. 59-95

3/4     No Telephone to Heaven, pp. 1-50; “If I Could Write this in Fire”
**Short paper Two due Tuesday, 5 March at 5pm via email**
3/6     No Telephone, pp. 51-106; “Challenges of the Struggle of Sovereignty”
3/8     No Telephone, pp. 106-160  

3/18   No Telephone, pp. 161-208
3/20   Mid-semester discussion; “Woman Skin Deep”
3/22    In the Time of the Butterflies, pp. 1-59

3/25   Butterflies, pp. 63-117
3/27   Butterflies, pp. 118-168
3/29   Butterflies, pp. 171-226

4/1     Butterflies, pp. 227-297
4/3     Butterflies, pp. 300-321; “Reclaiming Julia Alvarez”
4/5     The Pagoda, pp. 1-49; “The Asian Other in the Caribbean”

4/8     The Pagoda, pp. 49-95
**Short Paper Three due Tuesday, 9 April at 5pm via email***
4/10   The Pagoda, pp. 95-146
4/12   The Pagoda, pp. 147-196; “Uncovered Stories: Politicizing Sexual Histories in Third   Wave Caribbean Women’s Writing”

4/15   The Pagoda, pp.197-245
4/17   The Farming of Bones, pp.1-52
4/19   The Farming of Bones, pp.53-101; “Women Against the Grain: The Pitfalls of Theorizing Caribbean Women’s Writing”

4/22   The Farming of Bones, pp. 102-158
4/24   Farming, pp. 158-217; 6-page draft of final paper due in class (hard copy)
4/26   Farming, pp. 218-272

4/29   Farming, pp. 273-310; “Remaking Identity, Unmaking Nation: Historical Recovery and the Reconstruction of Community in In the Time of the Butterflies and The Farming of the Bones
5/1     Final discussion, review

Final papers due Tuesday, 7 May at 1 pm.

Grading Breakdown:

Participation 15%
Reading Journal 15%
Papers 15% each (45% total)
Final Paper 20%
Discussion Leading 5%

Your grade will be based on your classroom participation, reading journal entries, three short papers, one long paper, and leading discussion once this semester. Expectations for each of these assignments are listed below.

This class will explore texts primarily through discussion. In order to have fruitful and interesting discussions, the members of the class need to come prepared and willing to participate. This means having completed the reading before class begins, bringing copies of all readings to be discussed, and actively discussing the texts with classmates. I realize that speaking in class is easier for some students than for others, and I will strive to make the classroom as comfortable a place as possible for everyone. If you feel you are unable to participate in class discussion for any reason, come and talk to me about the situation. I expect students to speak to one another without their laptops, phones, or any other electronic devices in front of them. You should not have any of these out at any time during class. Using phones, laptops, and the like will lower your participation grade severely.

Reading Journals:
For this class you will be required to keep a reading journal one day each week. A third of the class will post the night before each class. For reading journals on Monday readings, you should post your journal by 8:00 pm on Sundays. For reading journals on Wednesday readings, you should post your journal by 8:00 pm on Tuesdays. For reading journals on Friday readings, you should post your journal by 8:00 pm on Thursdays. Space will be provided on Blackboard for you to do so.

You should think of your journal as a place to try out new ideas. Some of these ideas will inform our class discussion; some may find their way into your papers. The journal needn’t be as formal as a paper, but you should follow the conventions of Standard Written English, and your entries should be cogent and interesting. You should begin with a question or observation you have about the reading for that day and spend some time working through or teasing out that idea. You may make connections with other sections of the text, other texts we have read, or other ideas your colleagues have presented. Reading journals will be graded on completeness, thoughtfulness, and analysis. You will receive a grade for each half of the semester.

Discussion Leading:
You will be asked to lead discussion once this semester. While you may begin with background information on any part of the text, your main focus should be engaging your classmates in discussion. You will be responsible for running the first 20-30 minutes of class, eventually turning the class back over to me. You should meet with me before you lead class so that I may help you prepare.

You will be required to write three papers on the primary texts we read. You may, if you desire, include the secondary readings—critical, cultural, historical, and/or theoretical—in your papers. Papers will be turned in via email on days we do not have class. I’ll post instructions for turning in papers along with the assignment sheets for them.

Final Paper:
The final assignment in this class is a long paper (8-10 pages) due in hard copy on Tuesday, 7 May (this is during finals week). This final paper should begin with one of your short papers. You may write about any one or more texts we have read this semester. You will need to engage at least two outside critical sources in the course of your paper. You will turn in a partial draft (6pp) of your paper on Wednesday, 24 April in hard copy in class. I will provide feedback on your drafts so that you may revise for your final papers.

Late Work:
Late papers will lose one letter grade for each 48-hour period they are late. The exception to this rule is that each student will be allowed one free 48-hour extension. You may use this extension on any of your short papers or on your final paper. Late journal entries will not be accepted. You may not lead class discussion “late” or make up for a missed discussion leading. I will not accept late final papers (or any late work) beyond the last day of finals.

Plagiarism is turning in work that is not your own. Purchasing a paper you did not write, cutting and pasting from the internet, using someone else’s words without citation, or copying any words that did not originate from you is plagiarism. I will discuss academic integrity in class, but if you have any questions about what could or could not be considered academic dishonesty, please ask. Better to ask an embarrassing question than to be meeting with the Dean to discuss your academic dishonesty letter. Finally, often students turn to plagiarism because they are unsure of how to begin an assignment, or have run out of time to complete it. A late paper is much, much better than a plagiarized one. A late paper may damage your grade; plagiarism will damage your academic career, and possibly your professional one as well.