Studies in Lit & Culture

“History is in the Room” – an Exploration
of Anglophone Caribbean

Literature and Culture

“One enters a room and history follows: one enters a room and history precedes.
History is already seated in the chair in the empty room when one arrives.” Dionne Brand, “A Map to the Door of No Return – Notes on Belonging”

The Caribbean sea spreads across one million square miles and contains over 7,000 islands, cays and reefs. The Caribbean, as Sidney Mintz has noted, is the region
that, while predating
the modern, birthed modernity.
Politically the region is divided
into approximately 30 territories: previously colonized now “sovereign” nations, an
d still colonized, whether as overseas departments or dependencies. Colonial powers have included Portugal, Spain, England, France, Holland, Sweden,
Denmark and the United States of America. This legacy is felt in a region divided by language, political status, mobility, and culture. But it is also felt in a region of rich, syncretic, unexpected connectivities, and great intellectual, musical, artistic,
literary and cultural creativity,
innovation, and achievement.


“History is in the Room” – an Exploration
of Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Culture, the first course offered at the University
of Hawai’i devoted entirely to Anglophone
Caribbean Literature, will engage with the Caribbean through sound, song,
story telling, poetry,
fiction and non-fiction. And will explore through literature
what it means to live in a region haunted by history. How does literature engage with history and the contemporary moment? It talks back, reimagines, remembers,
forgets, parodies,
laughs at, weeps over, rages at, demands reparations, reclaims,
speaks of consequences, walks away from…..


This course, which will be taught by a Jamaican film maker and writer who had the privilege to grow up amongst
 the West Indian literati,
will feature a wide range of Anglophone Caribbean Literature including
 foundational authors such as Jean Rhys, VS Naipaul, Sam Selvon, Olive Senior, Louise Bennett, Earl Lovelace,
Derek Walcott, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, while featuring twenty-first century works by authors such as Jamaica Kincaid, Dionne Brand, Kei Miller, Tiphanie Yanique, Diana McCaulay, Tanya Shirley, Jennifer Rahim, Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell.


Song and oral story telling will be provided in class and through online links. Poetry, Short-Fiction and Short Non-Fiction will be provided through PDFs and online links. The following
Monographs are required reading and can be purchased
on line or at Revolution Books, and will be in the Sinclair Library Reserve Reading Room:


Dionne Brand, “A Map to the Door of No Return – Notes on Belonging”, Doubleday Canada, 2002


Jamaica Kincaid, “Mr Potter”, Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 2002


Diana McCaulay,
“Dog-Heart”, Peepal Tree Press,

Jean Rhys, “Wide
Sargasso Sea”, Penguin Modern Classics, 2007 (1966)

Evaluation: This course is designated
Writing Intensive, it is also Reading Intensive
. Participants will be expected to have read assignments on time and be prepared to participate in classroom discussions. There will be 3 short writing assignments (3-4 pages) and one medium length writing assignment (6-10 pages), choices will always be given regarding
readings and
 topics for writing assignments. There will be a final open-book examination (essay).