Slides for 4/26

April 26: Díaz, concluded; Morrison (1). Our initial discussion of “Recitatif” revealed just how enigmatic it is. We will continue to discuss this story on Monday.

The slides shown in class had a bad typo; the date for the busing protest and counter-protest photographs is June 1959, not 1969. Morrison’s imagined protests, set in upstate New York, take place in the 1970s—we know this because we know Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970) has died before the protest scenes in the story. I have borrowed the images from Matt Delmont’s Why Busing Failed site (which is based on his book of the same title). This is a great resource on the history of school desegregation from Brown v. Board onwards. Morrison’s 1970s are the era when “busing” and school segregation in the North made the national news, especially after a 1974 court order to integrate Boston schools provoked violent protest from whites in the city. But Delmont argues that the story should start with civil-rights activism for school integration beginning in the 1950s.

I mentioned Morrison’s 2004 children’s book on school integration. It is called Remember: The Journey to School Integration, and you can see the first few pages on Google Books.

Good basic background material on Morrison that situates her in a world-literary perspective can be found on the pages devoted to her by the Nobel Prize website.

Slides for 4/24

April 24: Silko, Díaz. There are a couple of images of the Pueblo of Laguna, together with a little historical information, on this National Park Service page (the pueblo is suggested as a stop on a “discover our shared heritage travel itinerary”). The slides quote from Silko’s “Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective,” which you can read in full via the library’s digital version of the collection it’s in. I highly recommend it (it has good stories in it).

As for Díaz, it is difficult to find information about the distant place he evokes, but the community of Parlin, which is located in the northeastern part of the North American continent, does have a short Wikipedia entry. You’re on your own, however, if you want to know more about the place Beto has gone off to in the story.

Slides for 4/19

April 19: Kincaid, Naipaul. The April 6, 1968 Washington Post front page about the riots after the assassination of MLK should provoke a critical reflection on the way the media represents unrest through racial lenses–and “the media” includes both newspapers and short stories by major literary figures. Compare the photograph in the King encyclopedia of the April 8, 1968 silent march in Memphis (King was killed while supporting a sanitation workers’ strike there).

What is a Recitatif?

Recitatif is the French form of recitative, which is a style of music delivery in which a singer speaks, as if they are speaking in an ordinary day. It is a narrative song, which describes a thought, action, or emotion. It follows the natural flow of language, and makes it seem more like a conversation than a song. It is a short story, formatted after a song. It is mainly used for religious purposes, making it somewhat relevant to our story, due to the fact that the children stayed in Saint. Bonaventure’s, and that the story also somewhat revolved around segregation, which also dealt a lot with religion.

There are two different styles of recitative music; dry style, and accompanied or measured recitative style. The dry style is only accompanied by a base, while the accompanied uses the entire orchestra. An example of this type of music would be Gregorian chants, which were used in the Roman Catholic Church in the 9th and 10th centuries, as unaccompanied sacred song.

We see, in the case of this story, that the author is trying to portray the story to be more of a song, going back and forth between past ad present, going back and forth between love and hate, and the growth of both characters and the realizations that they both come to find can all be represented as a song.

The Speaker’s Inner Battle with Homosexuality

The preface to Drown mentions that “Diaz has based the collection partly on Homer’s Odyssey” (1241), with the collection referring to the many stories of Drown many of which are not included in the Norton. The excerpt given in the Norton follows the steps of the hero’s journey in the same way the Odyssey does, proving that Drown is based on the format of this epic tale. There is no correct answer as to which steps in the excerpt correspond to what steps in the hero’s journey, thus leaving it up to personal interpretation. But nonetheless the plot can be lined up to the basic guidelines of: birth, call to adventure, crossing the threshold, tests, climax, flight, return and home, not necessarily in that order because the speaker constantly changes the current time of the narrative by constantly recalling key memories. His journey revolves around his sexuality and his consenting to multiple homosexual acts with his friend. These memories greatly trouble him, eventually causing him to cut his closest friend out of his life for fear of being outed when he isn’t even entirely sure why he consented in the first place.

Campbell, Josephine. “Monomyth (Hero’s Quest or Journey).” Salem Press
Encyclopedia, January.
Díaz Junot. “Drown.”, The Norton Anthology of American Literature:              Volume E: American Literatures since 1945 , 2011 8th ed. Ed. Nina Baym,  et al. New York: Norton, 2011. 1239-48. Print
Stringer, Dorothy. “Passing and the State in Junot Díaz’s ‘Drown’.”         MELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic               Literature of the United States, vol. 38, no. 2, 2013, pp. 111-126.

Silko’s Yellow Woman vs. “Evil Kachina Steals Yellow Woman”

There are many variations of the story of Yellow Woman. Leslie Marmon Silko’s is one that focuses mainly on Yellow Woman with the captor.  Silko’s story does not paint a good picture of her husband as he may take on another wife if she does not come back and in the end he is just playing with the baby when she returns (1036). In the following story of Yellow Woman, Yellow Woman’s husband plays a more prominent role by rescuing her and Yellow Woman hugs him in relief.  That is because in this version as the title indicates, the captor is evil. In contrast to Silko’s version the captor is someone/something Yellow Woman grows fond of.

Evil Kachina Steals Yellow Woman

One day Yellow Woman leaves town and goes with her jar to the river to fetch water. She sees a kicking stick and hides it in her dress. Evil Kachina comes up to her and, after a brief conversation about who owns the kicking stick, tells Yellow Woman that she must come with him. He carries her on his back to his house in the sky, then leaves her to grind corn and make wafer bread (probably piki) while he goes hunting. When he brings a deer back Yellow Woman gives Evil Kachina corn wafers to eat and gives the dead deer an offering of sacred corn meal.

Meanwhile Yellow Woman’s husband returns to their house in town and finds his wife missing. He is deter mined to find her. He goes to Old Spider Woman for help. She feeds him a cooked snowbird head, in return for which he hunts several more snowbirds for her. Then she takes the husband to Evil Kachina’s house, where he finds his wife at home alone. She hugs him and he takes her home.

When Evil Kachina comes home and finds Yellow Woman gone, he angrily pursues her. When he gets to their house he threatens to kill both her and her husband. He does not kill them right then, however, because Yellow Woman is pregnant with his child. After it is born he comes to get the child. He had already taken many Yellow Women away and killed them by throwing them down on the ice, leaving them to freeze to death. Evil Kachina kills this new Yellow Woman and her husband. He is very bad, this Evil Kachina.

Works Cited

Beidler, P., Holland, H., Sipos, A., Shi, J., El-Aasser, N., Blossom, M., . . . Diana, V. (1996). Silko’s Originality in “Yellow Woman” Studies in American Indian Literatures, 8(2), 61-84. Retrieved from



What is a Yellow Woman?

Leslie Marmon Silko story, “Yellow Woman”, never really explains what a Yellow Woman is. Silva calls the narrator a Yellow Woman and what we know about her is mainly from a passage on page 1031. The narrator explains that her grandfather liked to tell the Yellow Woman stories the best and a description of one of the stories.

Yellow Woman, or Kochinanko, is the subject of many anecdotes in Laguna tradition (Silko’s heritage). The stories that include Yellow Woman vary, “but in some of the stories Kochininako is swept away by forces and circumstances beyond her” (Beidler 62). The narrator in “Yellow Woman” is quite confused about where she is and who she is with, so this example of an anecdote fits well with the story. Further, a lot of Yellow Woman stories dealt with things like abduction and myth, which are both displayed in the “Yellow Woman”.

It is also believed that Yellow Woman is representative of all women, as she is the subject of a wide range of plots. “The stories’ subject matter ranges from every day events and experiences to magic and ritual. Yellow is the color the Keres relate to women so in one sense, Yellow Woman refers to all women and means ‘Woman-Woman'” (Thompson 22).


Works Cited

Thompson, J. (1989). Yellow Woman, old and new: Oral tradition and Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Storyteller”. Wicazo Sa Review, 5(2), 22-25. Retrieved from

Beider, P. e.d. (1996). Silko’s originality in “Yellow Woman”. Studies in American Indian Literatures, 8(2), 61-84. Retrieved from


Krishna and the Hare Krishnas

          When Santosh runs through the traffic to the green circle, he takes notice of all the people there but what catches his eye specifically are the dancers known as the Hare Krishnas (1012). According to the Norton footnote, the Hare Krishnas are a group of predominantly white American Hindus who dress up in traditional Indian clothing and dance while chanting the names of Krishna in Sanskrit. The Hare Krishnas belong to an organization referred to as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). This organization was formed in 1966 in NYC by Abhay Charanaravinda (often abbreviated A.C.) Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. A.C. was a Gaudiya Vaishnava teacher; Vaishnavism is one of the more major sects within Hinduism and it propagates the idea of Vishnu, or one of his avatars (in this case, Krishna), as the Surpeme God.

          In Hinduism, there exists a trinity similar to the one in Christianity. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva make up the trinity and are described as being one. Together, these three gods are responsible for the creation, the preservation, and the destruction of the universe and their proper names are as such: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. Focusing in on Vishnu, he is represented through 10 main avatars (reincarnations) and Krishna symbolizes his 8th reincarnation. Krishna is recognized as the God of love and joy, known for playing pranks, and is typically depicted with a flute surrounded by gopis (cow herding women).

Pictures of the Hindu gods can be found below…

Works Cited:

Puchner, Martin. The Norton anthology of world literature. 3rd ed. Vol. F. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013. Print.

“What is ISKCON?” ISKCON The Hare Krishna Movement. N.p., n.d. Web.

“Vaishnavism Vaishnavism fast facts and introduction.” Vaishnavism – ReligionFacts. N.p., 29 Oct. 2016. Web.

“KRISHNA.” Hindu Gods & Buddha Statues. N.p., n.d. Web.


Krishna (8th avatar of Vishnu)      Vishnu the Preserver (2nd in the trinity)

Benna in “Girl”

In Jamaica Kincaid’s, Girl, the author writes, “Is it true that you sing benna in Sunday school” (1145)? “Benna,” according to the footnote that Kincaid provides us in the Norton, is an improvised Antiguan folk song with African roots. Lorna McDaniel of “Alexander Street” defines “benna” in her article “Antigua and Barbuda” as the satiric folk song of early Antiguan calypso. It is sung by a leader and an audience, using a “call-and-response” format, and includes gossip into the song. Quarkoo, a legendary traveling singer as McDaniel mentions, published scandalous texts that eventually put him in prison when he mentioned in a benna that the daughter of a high-placed citizen became pregnant while living in a convent. The benna was titled, “Cocoatea.” Quarkoo’s style of including scandalous gossip into the songs paved the way for future revitalized “bennas.” For example, Short Shirt’s 1977 album Harambee includes a dig at political and racial consciousness.

Works Cited

Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl. The Norton Anthology World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. F. New York, NY: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1145-1146. Print.

McDaniel, Lorna (1999). “Antigua and Barbuda”. Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Volume 2. pp. 798–800. ISBN 0-8153-1865-0.

The Négritude Movement

The Négritude was a movement created by Africans living under the thumb of French imperialism in the 1930s. While the movement started in Paris, it heavily dealt with Pan-Africanism and the African Diaspora. Black men and women would congregate to discuss black politics, their black heritage, and many other subjects that affected the way in which they lived, their everyday struggles, and their future amongst the racial hierarchy. It was created in order to celebrate the African body and the distinct African cultures surrounding it. The idea was to bring African pride back to Africans and establish a distaste and mistrust in colonization, Westernization, and slavery. They did this by acknowledging black achievements and dispelling racist stereotypes. The movement published books and articles and produced organizations all with the intent to create conversation about and fuel the disbelief of black inferiority and black incapability.

Works cited:


The Talaote, the Tribe That Inspired “The Deep River”

In Bessie Head’s “The Deep River” she acknowledges in a footnote, that the story was based on a real tribe from Botswana. The real tribe, the Talaote, is a small tribe,within larger ethnic group called the Bakalanga. The Bakalanga, or Kalanga, account for 11% of Botswana’s population, and have been linked to early fur and ivory traders. The Talaote specifically. sometimes referred to as the BaTalaote, or Talaunda, makes up a significant part of the Bakalanga ethnic group, and settled within the group, peacefully, and can still be found primarily in Senaywe Village. The Talaote are a peaceful group, and the origin of their reasoning behind migration is not as solid or easily found as Head makes it seem. Some sources cite inter tribal conflict, while others cite the pursuit of better land,and the escape from a drought, while still others say that it was the murder of a king, by his own brother, that forced them out of their land.


Works Cited:

Shona.Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 15 Apr. 2017<>.

Zufferey, F. S. “A Study of Local Institutions and Resource Management Inquiry in Eastern Central District.” Science and Children 20.5 (1983): 34. Web.

Head, Bessie.Reference Guide to Short Fiction. . 15 Apr. 2017<>.


Igbo tradition and missionary influence (Things Fall Apart annotation)

If anything is to be understood from the village of Umofia is that its people are bound by tradition. It is this same tradition that renders Umofia a male dominated patriarchy. It is this very same tradition that is questioned when the “white man”, or in other words, missionaries, arrive to bring their own influence. While talking about the white man, Obierika rightly says “We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

One of the reasons for this custom’s downfall is of a lack of structure itself –


The Igbo dominate in most of the region while the Ijaw are dominant in the Niger Delta region. A remarkable feature in pre-colonial times was the absence of centralized political authority.”


The Igbo weren’t only the biggest contributors of population in Southern Nigeria. The region itself has the highest reported Christian conversions with 95 percent.

One important moment that signifies the onset of the law of the “white man” from Okonkwo’s perspective was the death of Aneto, who was hung for following a violent tradition that wasn’t in keeping with the laws that the missionaries had declared


Work cited –

Things Fall Apart

New Encyclopedia of Africa. Ed. John Middleton and Joseph C. Miller. Vol. 4. 2nd ed. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. p37-58.

Wedding at the Cross Annotation

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is a writer that grew up and lived through a revolutionary and harsh time in British-occupied Kenya. Some of his novels describe the Mau Mau rebellion and the concentration camps that electrocuted and mutilated 150,000 Gikuyu people. He wrote the first modern novel in Gikuyu (Devil on the Cross) while in prison for having created an uncensored political play Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I Want). He and his family lived in exile after being released for writing about the injustices of the government.


Wedding at the Cross is a short story about Wariuki and Miriamu’s relationship and the hardships they go through. Wariuki was a mischievous milk clerk when he met Miriamu, a young woman who was a part of a well-off, God-fearing family. They were from Rift Valley, better known as the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, a very rural area.


Two major themes in this short story is colonization and religion. Although the reader is paying attention to the emotional rollercoaster of a relationship, Wariuki fought in Eygpt, Palestine, Burma, and Madagascar during WWII. He had successfully escaped during the Mau Mau Uprising; he briefly mentions his anger towards his own people. “Why should they upset the peace? Why should they upset the stability just when he had started gathering a few cents from his trade?” (1043). Kenya was occupied by European settlers in the early twentieth century, displacing the Kikuyu tribe. The attacks from the Mau Mau society towards European settlers caused the arrest and creation of the concentration camps that Wariuki had to flee from and then conform in order to survive.

Achebe: a few background sources

A few references for contextualizing Achebe. None of these are scholarly secondary sources making interpretive arguments about him in particular; if you are working on Achebe for your paper, it is up to you to locate those. These are more general sources of background of various kinds.

Tamuno, Tekena N. “Nigeria.” Rev. by Adebayo Oyebade. New Encyclopedia of Africa, ed. John C. Middleton and Joseph C. Miller, 2nd. ed. New York: Scribner, 2008. Online via Gale. An encyclopedia article surveying the country’s history and culture; it is divided up by geographic regions of Nigeria. Things Fall Apart is set in the Southeast.

Gikandi, Simon. “African Literature and the Colonial Factor.” Chap. 20 of The Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature, ed. F. Abiola Irele and Simon Gikandi. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. Online via Cambridge CORE. A useful general literary-historical essay about colonial-era literature.

Mazrui, Ali, ed. Africa since 1935. Vol. 8 of General History of Africa. Paris: UNESCO, 1993. Online via UNESCO. An enormous comprehensive project sponsored by the UN. The previous two volumes are also of interest.

Crowder, Michael, ed. The Cambridge History of Africa. Vol. 8, c. 1940–c. 1975. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. Online via Cambridge CORE. A somewhat older reference history book. The chapter on West Africa appears to be glitched and inaccessible.

Afigbo, A.E. Ropes of Sand: Studies in Igbo History and Culture. Ibadan: University Press, 1981. Online via ACLS. On the Igbo particularly.

Ogbanje Child from “Things Fall Apart” Annotation

“This man told him that the child was an ogbanje, one of those wicked children who, when they died, entered their mothers’ wombs to be born again.” (Achebe, 77) An ogbanje is “a child believed to die repeatedly and be continually reincarnated and born to the same parents.”(Encyclopedia) It is also called the “abiku” in Yorba, which comes from abi, meaning that which possesses, and iku, meaning death. The evil child makes their parents sacrifice anything to get the child to stay, but most still die before the age of 6. (Timothy, 62) Mothers, tend to stay away from forests, bush paths and roads, since it is said that the evil spirits like to reside there. The ogbanje, come into the world, without a known expiration date, and when they die, “a village might scar or mutilate such infants so that they will be marked upon birth.” (Aron and Ellsworth, 170) The evil spirit is so powerful that only a “medicine-man or priest who can communicate with the spiritual realm can force an ogbanje to stay.” (Aron and Ellsworth, 170) This medicine man/priest needs to find the “iyi-uwa”, and destroy it to break the connection between the human and spirit world. Majority of the time, these ogbanje come into the world just to die, and “collect the tears of the mother as payment,” and are reborn again to torture the women leaving her childless and in worst scenarios, divorced, since she is incapable of having kids.

Works Cited

  • Aji, Aron and Kirstin Lynne Ellsworth. “Ezinma: The Ogbanje Child in Achebe’s `Things Fall Apart’.” College Literature, vol. 19/20, no. 3/1, Oct92-Feb93, p. 170. EBSCOhost,
  • Igbo Religion.” Encyclopedia of Religion. . 9 Apr. 2017 <>.
  • Mobolade, Timothy. “The Concept of Abiku.” African Arts 7.1 (1973): 62-64. Web. 9 Apr. 2017.

Culture, Society & Structure: Things Fall Apart

In Chapter ten of Thing Fall Apart, a communal ceremony takes place within the village. Similar to most of the Igbo customs, there is a particular hierarchy, “It was clear from the way the crowd stood or sat that the ceremony was for men. There were many women, but they looked from the fringe like outsiders. The titled men and elders sat on their stools waiting for the trials to begin,” (Achebe 87). While Achebe’s novel is considered fictional, it leans heavy on real-life post-colonial Igbo social culture.

Adiele Eberechukwu explains:

Pre-colonial Igbo society can be seen to have enjoyed a striking uniformity. Throughout Igboland political fragmentation obtained, with the village group (what is at times called the town) being the largest unit of definite political integration. And within the village-group authority was dispersed, with lineage and non-lineage institutions, individuals and groups, hereditary and non-hereditary office-holders, men and women, the gods and the ancestors playing recognized roles in government. Land tenure, settlement pattern, religious beliefs, social stratification, attitudes to politics and government, to wealth and poverty, to life and death were basically the same.  With regard to social institutions some communities evolved highly developed title systems while placing relatively little importance on secret societies, some emphasized the role of secret societies at the expense of title systems, while others still gave both more or less equal weight with either type of association moderating the influence of the other. In the field of religion, apart from a few gods (such as Chukwu, Ala, Ihiejipky or Ifejipky) which were worshipped throughout Igboland, every autonomous community and, in fact at times, every segment of it, had deities exclusive to it. Again apart from the festivals associated with Ala and Ihiejipku most festivals were exclusive to particular communities.

Such uniformity is observed in Things Fall Apart during the ceremony. While the women are permitted to observe, their place in the ceremony is insignificant. Their limitation goes as far as not even being able to look inside the hut. Achebe describes, “If they imaged what was inside, they kept their imaginations to themselves.  No woman ever asked questions about the most powerful and the most secret cult of the clan,” (Achebe 88).  The men although valued, solely stand and observe. It is the elders who are typically faced in order to solve disputes throughout the village. Being the oldest, the elders are viewed as wisest and therefore have the ultimate fate of individuals. However, their power is limited. When all else fails, disputes are handed over to representations of the Gods in a court-like gathering. It is on that day that the Gods are called upon for guidance, “Nine of the greatest masked spirits in the clan [come] out together…. Each of the nine egwugwu represent[s] a village of the clan…The nine villages of Umuofia had grown out if the nine sons of the first father of the clan,” (Achebe 89). While the Gods do not physically appear, it is the most influential men of the village that are chosen to portray them. Achebe further exemplifies this social structure by stating, “Okonkwo’s wives, and perhaps other women as well, might have noticed that the second egwugwu had the springy walk of Okonkwo. And they might also have noticed that Okonkwo was not among the titled men and elders who sat behind the row of egwugw. But if they thought these things they had kept within themselves,” (Achebe 90). This is an important aspect of Igbo culture, a combination of structure and authority that is not to be questioned.


Things Fall Apart Chapter 10

Afigbo, A. E. (Adiele Eberechukwu). Ropes of sand: studies in Igbo history and culture. Ibadan : Published for University Press in association with Oxford University Press, 1981.