“New” World Literatures: Fictions of the Yard

Intermediate—Spring

This course will introduce students to the various permutations of the genre called “Yard Fiction,” generally associated with the writings of Caribbean nationals and expatriates of color. We will examine mostly novels and novellas, ranging from C.L.R. James’s Minty Alley (1939) to Juno Diaz’s Drown (1996). Ideally, we will explore the intersections of race, space, and culture in these texts and the contexts that they address. For our purposes, “the yard” can be defined as a space that is home to mostly people of color who are predominantly working-class people, employed and unemployed. The yard is usually a building, basically a “tenement,” or group of buildings on the same street. Subsequently, everything in the selected texts generally occurs in each of the different characters’ “own back yard.” The yard, as a physical space, generally binds the characters/people intimately, so they become each other’s keepers and peepers. We will examine how these different authors image and utilize the space of yard and different forms of writing, such as the vignette style, in order to effect a unique mode of storytelling, poetics, and politics. Given that yard fiction is associated with “urban or urban-like” settings/dwellings, and the course aims to give a world view of this genre, many of the texts include writings that are set in cities and villages on continental Africa, in London, in the United States, and in the Caribbean. Some general themes that are consistent with the genre and which students will be able to examine are gender, race, ethnicity, class, urban space, imperialism, globalization, coloniality (post- and neo-), independence, and culture, along with music/calypso and gossip as primary carriers of news and information, the role of the voyeur, and placing and marking territory via insider/outsider. Students are highly encouraged to enroll in the fall course, “New” World Studies: Maroons, Rebels, and Pirates of the Caribbean.