“Expanding the Atlantic” for World Literature Classrooms

Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Stream”

Welcome to the project “Expanding the Atlantic for World Literature Classrooms,” a collection of lesson plans and materials aimed at diversifying the North Carolina 10th grade World Literature curriculum to include a broader representation of Caribbean literature and poetry. Too often “World Literature” textbooks and curriculums pass over the rich cultural heritage of the Caribbean; in fact, in the North Carolina edition of Holt’s Elements of Literature: World Literature textbook there are only two short pieces[1] amongst a collection of more than one hundred to represent this part of the world. Moreover, the perhaps more grievous error is that the poem and short story are juxtaposed next to writers such as Chinua Achebe (Nigeria) and poet Abioseh Nicol (Sierra Leone) in a section entitled “Literature of Africa and The Middle East.”[2] While the writer’s connections to Africa are undeniable, ought we to group them amongst fellow black writers in place of providing their own subheading? Should the literature and poetry from the Caribbean being taught to 10th grade students be examined as a separate tradition that is, like all literature, subject to influence from the past? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes.

The lack of representation of Caribbean literature and its “interesting” categorization in class textbooks presents teachers with an opportunity to encourage students to think critically about texts and editorial choices. What are the ramifications of labeling Caribbean literature as simply “Literature of Africa?” What effect does this have on our perception of Caribbean culture? How does the literature of the Caribbean respond to its intertwined history with Africa, and why is knowledge of that history important when we approach texts from this region? These are all questions that teachers and students should engage with when exploring the lessons created for this project.

In the accompanying subpages of “Expanding the Atlantic for World Literature Classrooms,” you will find a collection of lessons that offer a multidisciplinary approach to studying Caribbean poetry. Due to the time constraints of this project, I have chosen to focus on several poems by Derek Walcott that bring up a variety of themes, images, and historical allusions to Black Atlantic culture and history. These poems are accompanied by mini-history lessons to broaden students’ background knowledge and complement the issues brought up in the poetry. Lesson plans will be included within the subpages, along with all lesson materials and suggestions for assessment. You may access the subpages through the menu above of the links here:

In the future, I hope to expand these materials into a longer unit that explores literature, poetry, art, and music from additional Caribbean writers and artists. I encourage you to give feedback and suggestions for improvement! Additionally, feel free to download and adapt any materials from the subpages for use in your own classroom.

Thanks and happy reading!
Savannah Windham


[1] The first is Jamaica Kincaid’s (Antigua) essay “On Seeing England for the First Time”; the second is Derek Walcott’s  (St. Lucia) poem “The Virgins.” Holt Elements of Literature: World Literature. Holt, Rinehart and Winston: Orlando, 2006. ISBN: 0-03-038806-6.

[2] Ibid, p. 986-1043

 

How to cite these resources: “’Expanding the Atlantic’ for World Literature Classrooms,” written and designed by Savannah Windham, The Black Atlantic Pages, The Black Atlantic Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/blackatlantic/ (accessed on (date)). – See more at: http://sites.duke.edu/blackatlantic/sample-page/expanding-the-atlantic-for-world-literature-classrooms/.

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