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The Transoceanic Imagination

SHUM 410/ENGL 401/601 AD White 110 Tues. 2:30-4:25

Cornell University, 2001


Prof: Elizabeth DeLoughrey                                         Office: 310 ADW

Office Phone: 255-9285                                             Email: emd23@cornell.edu

Office hours: Tues. 2-2:25/4:30-5pm 


This course will focus on diasporan literatures of ‘crossing the water’ and examine the historical, political and social factors that shape the inscriptions of these journeys. Since the etymological root of “diaspora” derives from the scattering of male ‘seed,’ we will examine the gendering of dispersal narratives of Atlantic and Pacific travellers including seamen, pirates, missionaries, slaves and sailors in order to interrogate the relationship of primarily male shipboard communities to nationalism, gender, sexuality, diaspora and resistance. We will pay particular attention to the material and gendered divisions between public and private both on the ship and in relation to its various ports. We will cover diverse travel itineraries and genres in our efforts to understand the relationship between travellers and place and to examine the consequences of destabilizing territorial, ethnic and national identities.


Required Texts (most are on 2 day reserve, Uris Library):

Florence Johnny Frisbie Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka (course packet, campus bookstore)

Derek Walcott Omeros

J. S. Kanwal The Morning (Savera)

Tom Davis Vaka: Saga of a Polynesian Canoe

Carmen Boullosa They’re cows, We’re Pigs

Caryl Phillips Crossing the River

Grace Nichols I is a long memoried woman

Satendra Nandan Lines Across Black Waters (see me for copies)

Teresia Teaiwa  Searching for Nei Nim’anoa

Witi Ihimaera The Whale Rider

A New Oceania: Rediscovering our sea of islands


Required Films (Uris Library)

I is a long memoried woman Video 1987

The Navigators Video 982

Course requirements

10%    Historian, Presentation

10%     Class participation & Attendance

10%     2 Short Essay Assignments (5pp each)

70%     20-page final research essay


*Class Historian: Each student will be assigned a day to briefly (3 minutes max.) summarize the themes and issues discussed in the previous class in order to stimulate discussion. This must be written on the board or distributed before class begins.

*Presentation: Each student is responsible for a ten-minute presentation/discussion. Your presentation should entail some basic research about the nationality of the text for that class, helping the class situate the work in time/space. You are required to distribute to your classmates a short bibliography (8-10 citations) of readings relevant to the topic, author, and/or text. More importantly, your presentation must raise general discussion questions about the reading and call attention to specific passages for discussion.

*Discussion: Since we have a lot of material to cover, we will extend class discussion onto the email reflector list: SHUM410-L@cornell.edu. You may also use the list to post questions about assignments, your ideas, etc. as long as they are related to the course. As this list is for student discussion, I will (try to) refrain from participating.

*2 Short Essay Assignments: You must submit two 5-page text analyses to me before November 13th.  Your may not turn in both on the same day. Since these are designed to stimulate class discussion and to help you choose a final essay topic, you must submit your primary text analysis on the day we cover that reading in class. Like your final paper, these short essays should weave theoretical works alongside close readings of a novel, poem or short story.

*Final Essay: Your 20-page final research essay will cover any class material of your choice and will be due in my mailbox (AD White) on 12/17/01at 4pm. No late essays will be accepted, period.



Class Schedule

Note:  ER=Electronic Reserve, Uris Library (Full text articles on library database)

UBR=Uris Book Reserve (Text itself is on 2-hr reserve at Uris Library)


Sept 4: Intro to the course; Derek Walcott “The Sea is History”


The Atlantic: Middle Passages


Sept 11: Grace Nichols I is a long memoried woman; (text and film--view film before class); Paul Gilroy “The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity” The Black Atlantic (ER); James Clifford “Diasporas” Routes (ER) and “Travelling Cultures” Cultural Studies (ER); bell hooks “Representing Whiteness in the Black Imagination” Cultural Studies (ER).


Suggested reading: Simon Gikandi: Introduction to Writing in Limbo.


Sept 18: Caryl Phillips Crossing the River; Janet Wolff “On the Road Again” Cultural Studies (ER); Ėdouard Glissant, Selections from Caribbean Discourse: Towards Caribbeaness 221-235, The novel of the Americas 144-150, Cross-Cultural Poetics 115-117, The Quarrel with History 61-67, Miscellaneous 92, 104, 108-9 (UBR).


Suggested reading:  William Safran “Comparing Diasporas: A Review Essay” Diaspora (ER); Selected essays of Wilson Harris: The unfinished genesis of the Imagination ed. Bundy (UBR).


Sept 25: Carmen Boullosa They’re Cows, We’re Pigs; Antonio Benitez-Rojo Intro to The Repeating Island (ER, UBR); Ėdouard Glissant Poetics of Relation: Errantry, Exile 11-22, On Caribbean Archipelago 33-35, On Roots, Land Possession, Filiation 143-48, Burning Beach 205-209 (UBR).

Suggested reading:  Ramón Grosfoguel “International Migration” Diaspora (ER).


Oct 2: Selections from Andrew Salkey Anancy, Traveller: “Middle Passage Anancy,” “Anancy and Caribbea,” “Anancy, Caribbea and Proverb” (ER); Kamau Brathwaite poems from The Arrivants: “The Emigrants” “South,” “The Cracked Mother,” “Islands” (UBR).

Special Guest Lecture: Introduction to Pacific Literature, Professor Paul Sharrad, University of Wollongong, Australia


Suggested Reading: Heller, “Landscape, Femininity, and Caribbean Discourse” http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/mln/v111/111.2heller.html


Oct 9: -break


Pacific and Caribbean Regional Odysseys


Oct 16:Derek Walcott Omeros; Walcott essays: “The Muse of History” and “The Antilles” in What the twilight says: essays (UBR); Judith Bettelheim “Jamaican Jonkonnu” Africa and the Caribbean (ER).


Suggested Reading: “The Schooner Flight” Walcott, The Star-Apple Kingdom  (UBR); Collins, "We Shall All Heal": Ma Kilman, the Obeah Woman, as Mother-Healer in Derek Walcott's Omeros” http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/literature_and_medicine/v014/14.1collins.html



Oct 23: Ana Lydia Vega “Cloud Cover Caribbean” from Her True True Name (ER); Edwidge Danticat “children of the sea” Krik?Krak (ER); Glissant “The Open Boat” 5-9 (PoR, UR); Liisa Maalki “National Geographic” in Culture, Power, Place (ER);

Suggested Reading: Caren Kaplan. “Cosmopolitan Diasporas” pp.101-142 (ER); Avtar Brah “Diaspora, Border…” Cartographies of diaspora (ER). 



Oct 30: Florence Johnny Frisbie Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka (course packet); Selections from A New Oceania: Epeli Hau’ofa “Our Sea of Islands,” Naidu “Whose Sea of Islands?,” Griffen “Putting our Minds to Alternatives,” Borer “Truth or Dare?,” Hau’ofa “A Beginning.” Paul Sharrad “Imagining the Pacific” Meanjin (ER); Chris Connery “The Oceanic Feeling and the Regional Imaginary” Global/local eds. Wilson and Dissanayake (on order, UBR).


Suggested Readings: David Chappell “Transnationalism in Central Oceania” JPS (ER);

Essays in Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production eds. Wilson and Dirlik (UBR); Introduction to Global/local (UBR); Exploration and Exchange: A South Seas Anthology eds. Lamb and Smith (UBR); KR Howe Nature, culture and history: The “knowing” of Oceania  (UBR); http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/boundary/v028/28.2connery.html, Connery “Ideologies of Land and Sea.”                       

Nov 6: View “The Navigators” before class; Tom Davis Vaka: Saga of a Polynesian Canoe; Teresia Teaiwa  Searching for Nei Nim’anoa (esp. “Kie-Hinano,” “Misplaced Native,” “Searching for Nei Nim’anoa”); Epeli Hau’ofa “The Ocean in us” Dreadlocks in Oceania (ER); Albert Wendt “Towards a new Oceania” Readings in Pacific Literature (UBR, ER).


Suggested Readings: Voyaging through the contemporary Pacific ed. David Hanlon and Geoffrey M. White (UBR); Discussion on Oceania: The Contemporary Pacific 13.1 Spring 2001 http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/contemporary_pacific/toc/cp13.1.html

Subramani. The Oceanic Imaginary w/responses by Hereniko, Sinavaiana-Gabbard, and Gegeo.

And 13:2: Margaret Jolly “On the Edge…”


Crossing Kalapani: Indian Indentures


Nov 13: J. S. Kanwal The Morning (Savera); Vijay Mishra “Indo-Fijian Fiction” in The Indo-Fijian Experience ed. Subramani (UBR); V Mishra “The Girmit Ideology Revisited” Reworlding ed. Nelson (ER); Nandan “Dispossession, Exile and Diasporic…” (ER); Sudesh Mishra selected poems (handout) Last day for short essay assignments.


Nov 20: Satendra Nandan Lines Across Black Waters; Nandan,“Fiji is a Four-Letter Word” Span 48/49 1999 (UBR); Selections from VS Naipaul The Middle Passage (UBR); Selections from David Dabydeen Coolie Odyssey: Preface, Coolie Odyssey, The Old Map (UBR); Cyril Dabydeen “Berbice Crossing,” & Churamanie Bissundyal “The Arrival-Part 1” They Came in Ships (UBR).


Suggested Reading: Special issue of SPAN 34/35 1993 on Diaspora (UBR).


Other Transports

Nov 27 Witi Ihimaera The Whale Rider; Selection from MPK Sorrenson Maori Origins and Migrations (ER); Walker, Ranginui “Nga Korero o Nehera” in Ka whawhai tonu matou/Struggle without end  (UBR); “Riding Someone Else’s Waka” Bella Te Aku Graham Pacific and Asian Inscriptions (ER).


Dec 4:  Cyril Dabydeen “Going to Guyana” Jahaji (UBR); Dionne Brand “Sketches in Transit” Sans Souci (UBR); Pheng Cheah “Given Culture” in Cosmopolitics (ER).


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Upload: 11/28/2001