Continental Crossings: Caribbean and US Literature and Culture

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
27 July 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA T72012 American Literatures

Module description

"It is becoming increasingly urgent to look at the literature form the United States in relation to the rest of the Americas, particularly because many of the best writers who currently live and/or publish in the United States originate from the Caribbean.

The St Lucia-born Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott who used to live and work for part of the year in the United States is a case in point, but other prominent writers include: Haitian-American Edwidge Danticat, recipient of the 1999 American Book Award, the 2011 Langston Hughes Medal and 2009 MacArthur Fellow; Dominican-American Junot Diaz, recipient of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and 2012 MacArthur Fellow; Antiguan-American Jamaica Kincaid, recipient of the 1985 Guggenheim Award for Fiction, the 1999 Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, and honoree Great Immigrant, Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2013.
In political science and international relations the Caribbean is often referred to as 'America's backyard' a disparaging definition which arrogantly conflates the United States with the entire continent and also implies that the United States 'owns' the Caribbean. On the other hand, Derek Walcott describes the United States as an 'aggressive democracy' and a 'dictatorship of mediocrity' where 'all are forced to be equal.' One of the characters of Haitian origin featured in a work by the African-Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat describes the experience of finally obtaining a passport and North American citizenship as 'standing in a firing line and finally getting a bulletproof vest'.

This module aims at looking at the ways in which writers in the Caribbean and in the United States imagine and represent Caribbean-US relations and how diasporic Caribbean writers represent their lives and experiences in the United States. Students will be able to deepen their knowledge of American literature by becoming acquainted with major poetic, fictional, non-fictional, and dramatic works which will be put in dialogue with one another in order to delineate the broader context in which these texts can be better understood. A close reading of primary texts will be at the centre of our method as we will investigate crucial issues such as the difference between reality and the 'American Dream,' what it means to be from 'the Americas,' nationalism and transnationalism, the function of memory and imagination, migration and the formation of identity, the ways in which authors, characters, and texts resist and respond to violence and discrimination, the diasporic nature of blackness in the United States, and the question of language.

This module is a logical extension of Professor Maria Cristina Fumagalli's interest in Caribbean literatures which she approaches in a comparative way. Maria Cristina is the author of three monographs on Caribbean studies: the first one, The Flight of the Vernacular: Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, and the Impress of Dante, analyses Derek Walcott's and Seamus Heaney's conversation with Dante paying particular attention to their use of language; the second one, Caribbean Perspectives on Modernity: Returning Medusa's Gaze (2009) reconfigures our understanding of modernity by approaching the issue from a Caribbean perspective; the third monograph, On the Edge: Writing the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic (2015) is a literary and cultural history which has the politics of borderline-crossing and the poetics of borderland-dwelling at its core and which also brings to the fore the experience of Dominican and Haitian writers who currently live and work in the United States like, for example Edwidge Danticat or Junot Díaz. Maria Cristina is also the editor of an issue of Agenda entirely devoted to Derek Walcott and the co-editor of two collections of essays which focus on gender and sexuality in the Caribbean (in particular on the figure of the 'cross-dresser') and engage with the idea of a literary geography of the 'American Tropics', an area that includes the Southern USA, the Atlantic littoral of Central America, the Caribbean islands and northern South America and which is central to this module. Maria Cristina has just completed a new monograph entitled Derek Walcott's Painters which was supported by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship.

Module Content Note: texts under discussion may contain references to: homophobia; miscarriage/abortion/death and/or abandonment of children; poor mental health; racism and xenophobia; rape and/or sexual assault; self-harm and suicide; slavery, colonialism and physical violence. Please contact the module supervisor if you have any questions."

Module aims

This module aims to foster students' critical thinking by inviting them to investigate American literatures from a broader perspective. It will enable students to become acquainted with the vibrant and diverse literature originating from the specific context of U.S.-Caribbean relations and to rethink the 'American' paradigm from a broader perspective.

Module learning outcomes

After completion of the module students should be able to display a detailed knowledge of major twenty- and twenty-first- century texts about and/or from the United States and the Caribbean.

Module information

N.B. There is a 'VARIANT' available only to students who have taken LT380-FY/SP 2021-22. The syllabus, Talis reading list and week by week breakdown for this variant is marked 'LT965VARIANT' and can be found on the Moodle page.

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery: Weekly 2-hour seminars


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay (4,000 words)    70% 
Coursework   Online Portfolio    25% 
Practical   Participation    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Maria Fumagalli, email:
Professor Maria Cristina Fumagalli
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Dr Will Norman
University of Kent
Reader in American Literature and Culture
Dr Lorna Burns
University of St Andrews
Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures
Available via Moodle
Of 23 hours, 20 (87%) hours available to students:
3 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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