We will start the semester with projects on the ways that Native Indians and Africans have been rendered in Western literature from the time of Columbus through to Voltaire and the Enlightenment.
Toussaint LíOuverture led the first successful slave revolution in Western history, against the French back when Haiti was the richest colony in the New World. His revolution unfolded in weird synchronicity with the French Revolution from 1791 to 1802, and it leads one to consider the pattern of revolution in general. Of course, Haiti is now the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Why?
We will read Madison Smartt Bellís biography of Touissant, and in class we will compare the Haitian Revolution with the French Revolution while considering the unique aspects of the identity Touissant fashioned for himself as he led the liberation struggle.
Essay 1: Touissant LíOuverture
We will then do projects tracing the subsequent history of Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the early nineteenth century until today.
Tracy Kidder is a Ďnew journalistí who wrote about Paul Farmerís creation of a legendary medical clinic in rural Haiti which has been copied in Peru and now in Rwanda. Farmer is one of those liberation theology Catholics who have been plaguing South American dictators since the 1960ís. He is now building a hospital in Rwanda, site of the notorious genocidal frenzy between Hutus and Tutsis back in the mid 1990ís.
Essay 2: Paul Farmer
Danticat and Diaz are contemporary American writers who both grew up on different ends of the island of Hispaniola. (Hispaniola is divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It was the island on which Columbus made first landfall.) Danticat is Haitian (ie African); Diaz is Dominican (ie Hispanic). Diazís novel has been the best read of the summer for me. Much of it is set in Jersey City during the 1980ís. His language is really interesting: he combines American pop culture and Dominican teen street cant with weird intonations of Melville.
Essay 3: Danticat (African) vs. Diaz (Hispanic)
Paul Kagame led the Tutsi rebel forces which overthrew the Hutu regime sponsoring the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1993. He has led since with a policy of reconciliation. He is demanding that the people rebuild the economy themselves and hopes to imitate the success stories of Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea. So far, itís working, and he is attracting top talent, like Paul Farmer.
Essay 4: Paul Kagame
Woye Soyinka is Nigerian. Death and the Kingís Horseman is a classic about the transformation of native values as a village leaps overnight from the stone age to the modern world.
Midyear Exam Essay: Woye Soyinka
I am hoping to avoid any overt political point beyond the obvious one: the Cold War is over.