Crossing the Boundaries of H-SC

April 19, 2012
Andrew A. Bauer '14

Class MeetingOn March 7 members of Dr. Sarah Hardy's Postcolonial Literature class made the trek into Farmville to discuss the novel Crossing the Mangrove* by Maryse Condé with students in Literature of the Body, a course that focuses on gender, at Longwood University.

According to Dr. Hardy, "Longwood Professor David Magill and I discovered last fall that we could both be teaching Maryse Condé this spring, so we decided in October to choose the same novel and to teach it at the same time so that this event could happen.  It was interesting, because my class had been focusing on the postcolonial angle, while his class had focused on questions of gender and the body.  Getting the two classes in conversation with each other was productive and fun. We had a Blackboard discussion during the week prior to our joint meeting, and that set the stage for the double class."

Admittedly, some Hampden-Sydney students were a little anxious about participating in a discussion group comprised of both familiar and new members and also uncertain as to what knowledge our Longwood counterparts would bring to the discussion.

After first experiencing the stresses of restricted parking found outside of the Hampden-Sydney campus, we met with the Literature of the Body class in Cox Hall.  All of our uneasiness seemed to dissipate, however, when we were welcomed warmly by the Longwood class and Professor Magill.  It was amazing to see the instant camaraderie between Hampden-Sydney and Longwood students as we greeted each other over pizza and drinks.

Following our initial meet and greet, Dr. Hardy and Dr. Magill sparked our ensuing discussion by raising thought-provoking questions that concerned both postcolonialism and elements of the body, providing each class with some common ground.

Most of our remaining time was spent in groups with at least two members from each school. At this point, Dr. Hardy and Dr. Magill proposed several elements found within Crossing the Mangrove for each group to focus on and to share with the entire class. The diversity of subjects (marriage, death, alcohol, writing, and other important topics pertinent to our conversation about the novel) brought out the best of the entire group.

Once each group deliberated over its specific subject, Dr. Hardy and Dr. McGill led a discussion which allowed each group's particular topic to become a foundation within the collective thoughts of the combined classes. In doing so, we reached an understanding of each specific subject in relation to the themes in Crossing the Mangrove, which, as all of us came to realize, mirrored our understanding of each other, regardless of school affiliation.

This experience proved to be success not only in discussing a novel, but also making positive connections with those outside Hampden-Sydney.

Book Cover*Crossing the Mangrove, by Maryse Condé is set in 1986 on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.  The story is told through the eyes of the many inhabitants of the island who are uncomfortable with the arrival of a strange foreigner who has come to live amongst them.  The novel reflects the Creolite diversity of the inhabitants of Guadeloupe.