You are to write two short essays. Each essay must engage with the prompt and use
two texts (including films) to address how these texts reflect the prompt’s central ideas. The two texts you choose must be different for each essay. Each essay must be at least 600 words in length. They must have a thesis statement that synthesizes your central claims. The thesis statements must be underlined. A satisfactory essay must demonstrate: (1) your use of relevant and precise textual evidence to support your claims, (2) your ability to demonstrate your own analysis of the primary texts using the sources quoted in the prompt, and (3) your ability to synthesize the central themes of our course. The prompts are meant to inspire your own perspectives and interpretations of course materials.
Prompt #1: Diaspora Identity
The celebrated Jamaican-British cultural theorist Stuart Hall, in his essay “Cultural Identity and Diaspora,” defines cultural identity in light of Caribbean diasporic identity: “Cultural identity is not a fixed essence at all, lying unchanged outside history and culture. It is not some universal and transcendental spirit inside us on which history has made no fundamental mark. It is not once-and-for-all. It is not a fixed origin to which we can make some final and absolute Return. Of course, it is not a mere phantasm either. It is something – not a mere trick of the imagination. It has its histories – and histories have their real, material and symbolic effects. The past continues to speak to us. But it no longer addresses us as a simple, factual ‘past’, since our relation to it, like the child’s relation to the mother, is always-already ‘after the break’. It is always constructed through memory, fantasy, narrative and myth. Cultural identities are the points of identification, the unstable points of identification or suture, which are made, within the discourses of history and culture. Not an essence but a positioning. Hence, there is always a politics of identity, a politics of position, which has no absolute guarantee in an unproblematic, transcendental ‘law of origin'” (Hall 226).
Create a thesis that demonstrates the relevance of Stuart Hall’s claims about cultural identity to two texts studied in our course. You may choose which aspects of this passage to emphasize and explore.
Prompt #2: The Extraordinary and the Everyday in Caribbean Fiction
Tomás Alea’s manifesto for Cuban cinema, “The Viewer’s Dialectic”, states: “Now I would like to elaborate on how the cinematic show [or fiction] offers viewers an image of reality which belongs to the sphere of fiction, the imaginary, the unreal. In this sense it stands in relative opposition to the very reality it belongs to…The artistic show inserts itself to the sphere of everyday reality (the sphere of what is continuous, stable and relatively calm…) as an extraordinary moment, as a rupture. It is opposed to daily life as an unreality, an other-reality, insofar as it moves and relates to the spectator on an ideal plane…Cinema can draw viewers closer to reality without giving up its condition of unreality, fiction, and other-reality as long as it lays down a bridge to reality so that viewers can return laden with experiences and stimulation” (Alea 122-123).
Create a thesis that demonstrates how two Caribbean fictions approach “everyday reality” through an “other-reality” that ruptures and transforms the experience of everyday Caribbean reality. (You do not have to choose Aléa’s films, but you are more than welcome to write about them)