First Year Seminar

First Year Seminar
Healing Literature: Edwidge Danticat and Her Beloved Haiti
Monday/Wednesday/Friday, 1pm
Chapin 204
Professor Lucía M. Suárez
104 Barrett Hall
Through close textual readings of select texts from the literary oeuvre of HaitianAmerican author, Edwidge Danticat, this class aims to introduce students to the rich
history of Haiti’s people, the deep violence that has afflicted the nation, the trauma
that its diaspora carries, and the channels for healing made available to Haitian and
Haitian-American communities through literature, theater, and traditions such as
oral story-telling and religion. In particular we will examine: What is the function of
literature? Can literature perform healing for its writers and the communities
therein represented? Can it function as a tool of memory and human rights action?
How does diaspora literature affect life on the island? How does the recent
hurricane get addressed in new writings on the subject? Supplemented by historical
and theoretical essays, and special visits, we will attempt to understand the Haitian
condition in its complexity and astonishing beauty.
The course has three primary objectives. First, students will be exposed to the
examination and understanding of literary genres, memoir, historical fiction,
creative fiction, short stories, theater, and oral storytelling. Second, the students will
have short writing assignments in which they come to better understand the form
and function of different writing styles. Finally, students will learn interpretive
reading, learning to read at face value (emotional response) and also to read for
meaning (fact-finding, synthesis evaluation, multiple interpretations).
Course Pack
The course pack is sold at the main office of the Spanish Department, second floor
Barrett Hall.
In Class Handouts
Due to copyright arrangements, some of the material will be handed out in class.
Books can be purchased at Amherst Books, 8 Main Street, Amherst, MA 01002.
***ALL BOOKS are also all on reserve at Frost Library. ***
By Edwidge Danticat:
Create Dangerously, 2010
Krik? Krak!, 1991
The Farming of Bones, 1998
Breath, Eyes, Memory, 1994
Brother, I'm Dying, 2007
Other texts available on reserve at Frost Library
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
Edwidge Danticat: A Reader's Guide by Martin Munro
The History of Haiti by Steeve Coupeau
Haiti Rising: Haitian History, Culture, and the Earthquake of 2020 edited by Martin
Written in Blood: The Story of the Haitian People, 1492-1995 by Heinle and Heinl
Grade Distribution
Class attendance and participation
Class presentations
Thesis statement
Outline of final essay
Final Essay
Academic Honesty
In compliance with FYS policy, students will sign a waiver. Please review the
Amherst College online policy for academic honesty
***I invite the class to become active learners in which, as a community, we engage in
the process of discovery, editing, and uninhibited class discussions, without worries
about grades or producing “perfection.” Process is hard, valuable work that will direct
our energies in the best direction: our own work in process.***
All students will be asked to edit the first version of their essays, and grades will be
given to the second version.
Difficult Materials
Some of the materials might be emotionally difficult, triggering fears or memories of
personal experiences. If any student is having any kind of difficulty with the
readings or discussions, please either speak with the professor, or contact the
Amherst College Counseling Center, 542-2354, immediately.