I’m teaching World Lit this semester both online and in person. We’ve switched to Blackboard 9 at school; Blackboard 9, how I loathe you.
In addition to reviewing the syllabus and expectations for the course, the first week we look at work from Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz, as well as excerpts from South American writer Eduardo Galeano’s collection Mirrors.
Here’s a taste of it!
World Literature, Week 1
- Background materials:
- Review a map of the Caribbean, noting of course the location of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
- Listen to “A Look at Haiti’s Political History” (National Public Radio, 18 January 2010) and read over “Haiti’s History: Revolution, Subjugation” (CBS Sunday Morning, 18 January 2010).
- Watch at least an excerpt from Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates’ documentary “Haiti and the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided.”
- READ/REVIEW the following:
- “A Little While” (Edwidge Danticat)
- “A Year and a Day” (Edwidge Danticat)
- LISTEN to >> “Unspoken” (Junot Diaz reads “Water Child” by Edwidge Danticat)
- PDF >> “Wildwood” (Junot Diaz). Unfortunately, you’ll need a
New Yorker account to read this text.
- READ the excerpts from South American writer Eduardo Galeano’s collection Mirrors (translated by Mark Fried), a collection of descriptive vignettes that seek to encapsulate the entire story of the human race: see the New York Times review for more; two additional Galeano stories from Mirrorshere.
- Many of Galeano’s vignettes are “origin stories:” his creative interpretation of how certain aspects of our culture and human psyche first came into being. Taking a cue from Galeano, post a short (2-4 paragraph) origin story of you: “Where did you come from? Who are you? Where are you going?” and anything else you’d like to include. Feel free to write in either the first-person (“I” pronoun) or even the third-person (“she/he” pronoun). Post your response in the comments section below: see my example.
Born in the May-month: a reluctant child who missed the appointed check-out time. Once delivered, his mom was nervous to take him out of the house for the first six months of his existence. This, however, did not seem to do any undue harm to his emotional development.
Rich Russell went to nursery school and was well-liked. Two girls once quarreled over whom he would play house with during play time.
Rich chose The Girl in the Blue Dress.
Years later, the sister of The Girl in the Blue Dress would appear as a student in one of his mom’s college composition classes. Reunited in adolescence, Rich and The Girl in the Blue Dress exchanged one hand-written letter apiece before losing interest in one another.
Years after that, Rich would think that this all seemed significant for some reason.
He now teaches part-time at that same college and makes zines in his spare time. He often frequents coffeeshops, Starbucks being a favorite haunt of his. “I like that every Starbucks is the same: that this one here in Mays Landing is just like the ones I used to know in New York or London.” It is very Andy Warhol of him, some say.
He currently resides in Ocean City, where a whale washed up on the beach last January (you’ll recall). Rich felt that, that was very significant, too.
He wrote to some friends this summer: “I’m going to make a tarot card with a dead, beached whale on it. This will be my own personal card of heartache, upheaval and transition. Some will think it an ill omen, but––I dunno. Sometimes it takes a dead whale to shift the tide of one’s life, no? To remind us how vulnerable we are & to remain vulnerable to the influence of others; even obscure objects of unattainable desire.” For heartache & heartburn: let this be the season.
I came out crying and I kept up with the tears and the shrieking for the first year of this life. Mom had to hide in the shower so as not to kill me. I apparently made her vomit daily all nine months of her pregnancy. She had only recently moved down to the Jersey Shore from the Philadelphia Main Line for my father’s new job. Mom had few new friends yet and talked with me all the time. I talked early and I walked late, supposedly in no rush to move anywhere.
Yes, I was slow early on, but then spun around like a tornado for years, until my early thirties when I had become destructed. I was a workaholic, which I learned from my mother, until my lights were knocked out. I couldn’t find new replacement bulbs for quite a while. Where’s a good candle when you need one? How about one that holds its scent?
Time passed and I had to move again; just as my paternal grandmother had to move from Ireland to come to America, leaving behind parents and siblings; just how my maternal grandmother had to leave her drunk, violent bastard of a husband; and just as I had to leave to recover from the many myocardial infarctions of relationships I had. I had to leave to find faith.
One time, I got still. During a Shamanic Journey I found a white candle amongst my room of gifts. Is that the only gift I get? The shining light of life has returned. I’m on the move again and I have to move my feet, but definitely not running, which I hate. I’m still focused on the step-cardio workouts of the 1980’s. I was recently gifted with a new cruiser style bicycle for my 39th birthday. Off I go with my bike basket, and bag, and hat. However, I envision my primary motion to be tap dancing. After the Shamanic Journey I traveled to Kripalu in the Berkshires and tap danced my heart out for a week.
First I had to cry and then I came undone. Then I had to hope, and then I had to love. I loved someway into my marriage, which involves faith. Oh, I’ve found faith. I still cry, but now I can dance. This is what T.S. Eliot wrote of in “The Four Quartets”—
“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”