Queens Satellite Academy High School
Caribbean Literature Course Outline Fall 2000
Marjory Zaik

This mid-level English course is paired with Caribbean Studies, a global history course taught by Jill Bass.

The aim of the course is to introduce students to a sampling of the literature, as well as the literary and cultural history, of the nations of the Caribbean region (in particular, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica) while improving students' reading comprehension, critical thinking and analytical writing skills with classwork, homeworks, quizzes or tests and culminating projects for each unit. Essential questions addressed by the course are: What is Caribbean identity and how does the literature of the Caribbean reflect it? Who are the heroes and heroines of Caribbean culture and how does the literature of the region reflect them?

Unit 1:
The Taino people -- the myths, legends and folktales of the indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean; modern literature reflecting the Taino component of Caribbean identity.

: Myths and legends: Fray Ramon Pane(Spain/DR); Cayetano Coll y Toste (19th century)(PR); modern retellings of Taino stories (including children's books). Short story by Rene Marques (PR)
Chapter from a book by Aurora Morales Levins (PR/US).
Project: bulletin board project "The Indian Ancestry of Latino Heritage" for Latino Heritage Month celebration Oct. 6.

Unit 2:
The African people and slavery in the Caribbean -- the beginnings of African cultural
expression in the Caribbean/modern-day authors on slavery and black Caribbean identity.
Excerpts from Autobiography of a Slave by Juan Francisco Manzano (Cuba, 19th century)
and Restavec by Jean-Robert Cadet (Haiti/US, 1998).
Anansi (trickster) stories in English-speaking islands; Haitian folktales.
Verso negro from Cuba, PR, DR (readings -- Guillen, Pales Matos et al. and viewing of PBS program).
Modern poetry reflecting on slavery from Jamaica.
Bomba y plena music from Puerto Rico (PBS program and school visit from Los Pleneros)
Short story by Valcarcel (PR).
Project: writing project comparing two poems or two stories.

Unit 3: From the country to the city -- the modern experience. Relationship of historical circumstance to artistic creation.
Readings/resources :
The Harder They Come
(Jamaica): film, soundtrack, chapters from novel (by Michael Thelwell). Reggae music.
Sugar Cane Alley (Martinique): film, excerpt from novel (by Joseph Zobel)
Short story by V.S. Naipaul (Trinidad)
Short story by Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/US)
Project: writing project on the Ivan/Rhygin character in The Harder They Come, legend/hero theme.

Unit 4:
In the Time of the Butterflies (DR/US): novel by Julia Alvarez
In-depth reading and study of novel based on true story of Mirabal sisters, Trujillo-era "martyrs" in DR. Legend/hero theme. Relationship of historical circumstance to artistic creation. Readings from Julia Alvarez's essays about the process of researching and writing the book.
Project: reading journal, culminating in critical paper; learning how to use a reading journal to take notes towards a paper.