We usually understand movement or migration, desired or enforced, in terms of shifts of cultural or ethnic identity. In this seminar, we study fictional and non-fictional writings that entail a movement of individuals to and from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the nations that occupy the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Movement is usually across the waters of the Caribbean that separate Hispaniola from the United States, but in one instance, it is movement across the border separating Haiti from its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. In the books we will be reading in this seminar, the shifts go deeper than these movements, leading us to read about experiences that are likely unfamiliar but that ultimately allow us entry into complex and interconnected moments of national and global history. National or nationalist history and its institutions seem to determine individual destiny, indeed, survival itself, but not entirely. The books we will read include Haitian-American Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory; The Farming of Bones; and Brother, I’m Dying; and Dominican-American Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. In these books, movement is always embodied in some fashion, felt in the body itself, whether in terms of sexual or military physical assaults the body records in its scars or memory, or in terms of love and physical attraction to another in a relationship that is clearly tenuous at best.
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